Ever heard of Dandelion Wine, the book by Ray Bradbury? The usefulness of dandelions is famous! They may be one of the most recognizable weeds, ur, plants on earth. Dandelions are super easy to identify. Plus, dandelion look-a-likes are also edible and medicinal.
Dandelions (Taraxacum officinale) are the essential spring foraging plant. Dandelions are useful from top to bottom. They have edible and medicinal flowers, leaves, and roots.
Dandelion Health Benefits
Dandelions contain an enormous amount of minerals and essential nutrients, which are especially beneficial for cleansing the liver. Dandelions have anti-inflammatory properties, due to taraxasterols, and are rich in minerals, such as iron, manganese, calcium, potassium.
Dandelions are also orange-yellow, so they contain carotenes. Dandelions contain especially high levels of the antioxidant beta-carotene, which is known to provide strong protection against cellular damage and oxidative stress. Source.
Dandelions are also rich in another category of antioxidants called polyphenols. These are found in the highest concentration in the flower but are also present in the roots, leaves, and stems. Source.
Here are some of the dandelion’s many health benefits:
- Rich in Antioxidants
- Reduces water weight
- Promotes Liver Health
- Stimulates digestion and relieves constipation
- Helps prevent urinary tract infections (UTI)
- Cancer fighting properties
- Balances cholesterol
IMPORTANT NOTE: When foraging, make sure to ask first and confirm whether the plants have been sprayed with anything toxic. It is also a good idea not to forage right beside a road due to oil and other contaminants … not to mention unwary drivers.
The Many Uses of Dandelions
Here is a short list of all the things you can do with dandelions:
- Dandelion Root Coffee – It’s best to collect the roots for dandelion coffee before the stem sprouts and after rainfall, see the harvesting guide below. See the recipe for Dandelion Root Coffee also below …
- Dandelion Tea – Tea made from fresh or dried dandelion leaves is often used to strengthen digestion and as a diuretic to help the body let go of excess water. Here’s a recipe for dandelion tea.
- Dandelion Wine – It’s not just a Ray Bradbury story, it’s real and delicious. The most time-consuming of the dandelion treats described here, dandelion flower wine Here’s a recipe for making your own dandelion flower wine.
- Dandelion Infused Oil & Salve – Dandelion flowers have pain relieving and anti-inflammatory properties, making his salve especially good for sore and tired muscles and joints. Here are the steps and a recipe.
- Fried Dandelions – Mmm, if you’re from the South, you can fry anything. Fried dandelions have been compared to fried mushroom or okra. See below for more …
- Dandelion Pesto – Nothing like summertime caprese with garden fresh basil and tomatoes. Running low on basil? The bitter dandelion leaves can be delicious substitute. Here are some recipes for dandelion pesto from David Lebovitz and The Old Farmer’s Almanac.
How and When to Harvest Dandelion Leaves and Roots for Dandelion Root Coffee and Tea
A dandelion’s minerals and nutrients stay in its roots until the stem sprouts. The nutrients then migrate to the stem and flower.
Dandelions are notorious as a weed for the stubbornness of their roots, so it’s best to wait after rain has fallen to harvest the roots. The soil will be moist and easier to work with, but a gardening knife or other weed pulling tool may be helpful.
Now, clean off all the dirt from the roots. You can eat the leaves or toss them in the compost bucket.
Drying Out Dandelion Roots
For dandelion coffee, you will need to dry out the roots. A dehydrator is great, if you have one. A convection oven will do just fine, too. Drying the roots out takes a couple days. That consumes a lot of power, right?
Here are some good tricks for drying out roots courtesy of Amanda Filipowicz:
- Option 1: Heat the oven at a low temperature, about 150-200°F for about 1.5 hours, then let the dandelion roots hang out in the warm oven.
- Option 2: Crank the oven up to 375°F and turn it off as soon as reaches 375°F, then keep the roots in until morning.
Do this again the next day or a few hours later, depending on when you started.
How to tell if the dandelion roots are sufficiently dehydrated and ready? The center of the dandelion root will no longer be squishy. Roasting them a bit is good, but don’t burn them. They should have a nice dark color or golden brown. They should also become fragrant after a proper roasting.
Dandelion Root Coffee Recipe
Now, How to Make Delicious Dandelion Root Coffee?
You have prepared, dried, and roasted your dandelion roots. Now what? This is actually the easy part. Just grind them up.
You can grind your dandelion roots using just a normal coffee bean grinder. You may want to cut the dandelion roots to bean size first, since your grinder is sized for coffee beans. Also, don’t grind up all your roots at once if you have extra. The dandelion roots will last longer intact than ground up.
Instructions for Dandelion Coffee in a Coffee Machine or Percolator
Add ground dandelion root to the coffee filter. Apportion the grounds like regular coffee, i.e. one scoop per 2 cups of water or one mug of coffee (one coffee scoop equals 2 tablespoons or 10 grams).
Brew the dandelion coffee as normal.
You can add to the coffee distillate various extras like a tablespoon of maple syrup, a teaspoon or two of cinnamon or vanilla extract, or a pinch of ground nutmeg.
Instructions for Cooking Dandelion Coffee in a Pot
- Pour everything into a pot, including the ground dandelion root, the water or milk, as well as various extras like a tablespoon of maple syrup, a teaspoon or two of cinnamon or vanilla extract, or a pinch of ground nutmeg.
- Heat on medium
- Let the dandelion root steep for at least 15 minutes
- Strain to remove the bits of root
- Garnish with Nutmeg
Dandelion Edibles: Some More Dandelion Recipes, Thoughts, and Questions
Fried Dandelions Recipe
If you’re from the South like me, you’re always looking to fry something new. The mild flavor has been compared to a fried mushroom or fried okra.
The instructions are very simple and straightforward:
- Dip in an egg wash
- Coat with flour and shake off excess
- Fry in vegetable oil
If the taste is too bitter for you, try a sauce like the one pictured below from reddit user MAPBC. Their sauce recipe is two parts mayo, one part honey, one part sambas oelek (spicy chili paste).
Here in Louisiana, we add a a nice remoulade sauce. Remoulade is also very good on fried green tomatoes and crab cakes. Here’s a recipe for remoulade.
Is Harvesting Dandelions in the Spring Bad for the Bees?
What about the bees? Are you worried about harvesting dandelion roots and blossoms in the spring because they might be food for bees? Don’t worry about it.
First, there are plenty of dandelions to go around. They are one of the most prolific weeds out there thanks to all the kids blowing their seeds across creation. Maybe not for us, but dandelions are the bane of many a lawn-keeper’s existence.
Second, picking dandelions only makes them produce more flowers!
Still worried? Read this post on flowers to plant for the bees 🙂
Want Even More Ways to Use Dandelions?
You can find over 50 more ways to use dandelions here.