You've probably seen dandelions growing in parks or fields. They are pretty recognizable because of their yellow flowers. But when it comes to foraging for dandelions, the best way to ensure you're not accidentally picking the wrong plant is to be cautious and research.
It is a wonderful plant for new foragers to look for and make tasty dishes with these wild edibles.
What do Dandelions Taste Like?
Dandelion leaves are notorious for being bitter, but that is easily remedied with a saute. Young dandelion flowers have a delicious taste of spring. I like it to honey, but then the bees might not be happy about that. On the other hand, Dandelion roots are well-known as a caffeine-free substitute for coffee. Once the roots are roasted, there is a mild similarity in flavor.
What do Dandelions look like?
Let's talk about what to look for when foraging for dandelions. Then we'll discuss where to find them and how to harvest them!
The dandelion is an unassuming plant. Its leaves are thick and fleshy, with jagged edges, and grow in a circular pattern — like teeth — at the base of the flower. They're usually bright green but sometimes a little pale. The stems are hollow and can be slightly milky white occasionally.
The flowers have rays that start yellow and turn brown as they mature. The center of the flower will turn into a seed ball known as a clock after it has gone through its life cycle.
Where to Look for Dandelions
To begin, look for plants in a spot where there hasn't been any fertilizer or pesticide use within the last few months. If you're looking for leaves, look for young and tender plants—they're most flavorful when they're between two and six inches tall, though you can certainly harvest older plants if that's all you have access to.
Select young plants with healthy leaves if it's the roots you're after. You'll want to dig underneath the plant itself, using a tool of your choice to gently scrape away dirt until you've exposed the entire root system.
Once you have the roots exposed, use your tool of choice to gently lift them out of the ground—a fork works well here. Don't worry about getting every bit of dirt off; you can work on that at home!
Cooking with Dandelions
You can also use the flower of the dandelion as food - they're milder than the leaves and can be used to make wine, jelly, and fritters. I love making dandelion leaf tea and infusing the flowers in vinegar.
The young leaves are less bitter, so they are best for eating raw in salads or cooking. They can be cooked like spinach and will wilt nicely. However, you should lightly cook them as they will turn brown if you boil them too long. If you use the leaves in a salad, wash them thoroughly to remove dirt or bugs.