Let’s go Foraging for Delicious Dandelions

DandelionTaraxacum officinale
(In Irish – Caisearbhán)

Escapism can be such a release, but when combined with real-world scenarios and food it can also be quite fun!

Inspired by my love for post-apocalyptic survival, wild food and adventure, today we’re looking at one of the most easily recognisable wild foods out there. The common dandelion!

Dandelions

Often considered as one of those pesky weeds that hang about your garden, it may come as a wonder for some that you could actually reap the benefits of this plant if you tried eating it!

A rich source of minerals, vitamins and even antioxidants, the common yellow dandelion is bursting with nutrients.

How to identify dandelions

Dandelions are identifiable by their vibrant yellow flower on a solitary stalk and green, toothed leaves. It’s formed as a rosette. The leaves typically point towards the crown (flower) and emit a milky sap when broken. When not in bloom, the single stalk has seeds on top with fluffy white-grey appearance.

The name dandelion has many different names including the French, ‘dents-de-lion’ (lion’s teeth) so called due to the green leaves toothed appearance. Another French nickname for it is ‘pissenlit’ (piss the beds) which would also be known to many English-speaking folks!

Where to forage dandelions

Dandelion, Meadow, Dandelion meadow image.

Found in abundance in fields, back gardens and everywhere in between, just make sure that your harvest dandelions are in a place that isn’t sprayed with chemicals or on a roadside.

Flowering Period

How to harvest

This absolutely depends on what you’re doing with it, as all parts of the dandelion have culinary uses. Thankfully dandelions are so common in Ireland, that you can really harvest a lot of them without any issues. Take the young leaves in your salad or stirfries, and harvest the root to make a coffee substitute! You can even make a dandelion wine.

Dandelion benefits

From root to flower, dandelions have many health benefits. The nutritional benefits of this wild food include:

  • The greens are an excellent source of vitamins A, C, and K.
  • Has several minerals, including iron, calcium, magnesium, and potassium.
  • Dandelion root is rich in the carbohydrate inulin, a type of soluble fibre found in plants that supports the maintenance of healthy gut bacteria.
  • High levels of the antioxidant beta-carotene.
  •  A rich source of fibre

How to cook dandelions

Well, you could simply toss the young leaves into a salad for a great nutritional boost or even make fritters. It’s also a perfect addition to a wild herb risotto.

What’s great is that the entire plant is edible, the plant can be steamed, roasted, eaten raw or even ground into a powder and used as a coffee substitute. The flowers can also be used to make jellies or cordials.

Recipe: Dandelion Root Coffee

This is a bit more time-consuming than using the dandelion leaves for a salad but is still straightforward once you know!

Ingredients:

  • Dandelion root! (Freshly dug up. Around 250g of fresh root will yield approx 50g of ground ‘coffee’).

Method:

  1. Give your roots a great scrub as there will be plenty of dirt coating them. A nail brush works great for this. Leave to dry.
  2. Pre-heat oven to 180°C/fan 160°C
  3. Chop the root small (no smaller than 1cm) and place on a large baking tray.
  4. Dry roast the roots for 30-40 minutes and turn them halfway through. The roots are ready when they are dark brown so keep an eye on them.
  5. Leave to cool and store in a clean jar.

To serve:

  1. For one cup of coffee, grind 1 1/2 (one and a half) tablespoons of the roots.
  2. Place the ground dandelion root in a small pan with 350 ml water.
  3. Bring to a simmer and gently bubble for 5 minutes.
  4. Strain and enjoy! You can add milk to it if you so wish, but try it plain to get used to the taste first.

An alternative easy coffee / tea combination:

Recipe: Dandelion Capers

Happy foraging!

If you are satisfied you have correctly identified this plant, you can submit your sighting to the National Biodiversity Data Centre here.


As always, please do not forage any plant you’re not 100% certain you can identify. 

(Lead image via WikimediaCommons, other images from Pixabay)

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