A real dandy plant
April 13, 2011 11:53 AM   Subscribe

Spring (aka scurvy season) is a great time to learn more about a wonderful weed! The dandelion, considered by many to be a scourge, a lawn-wrecker and a pest but others see it as an ingredient in many tasty recipes and as medicine.
posted by vespabelle (44 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
I forgot to add, you still have time to plan a trip to the Dandelion Festival!
posted by vespabelle at 11:55 AM on April 13, 2011

I'd try the ones that inevitably pop up in my lawn, but my neighbors all spray herbicides on theirs in close proximity, so I get a little scared.

Funny how we're so affluent we have free food growing on our front lawn, and our first impulse is to get rid of it.
posted by mccarty.tim at 11:58 AM on April 13, 2011

Sauteed dandelion greens are delicious (I like to mix them with some finely sliced pickled red onion.)
posted by ryanshepard at 12:04 PM on April 13, 2011

Without dandelions (and moss) I wouldn't have a lawn at all. At a rough estimate I've got around fifty per square metre.

If you want to come and help yourself, you're more than welcome. In fact, I'll pay you. I've got thistles too.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 12:06 PM on April 13, 2011 [2 favorites]

My Savoyard grandmother always swore by Dent de Lion to clean out your system. It's a diuretic, hence the French nickname Pise-en-Lit (pee the bed).
posted by annaramma at 12:07 PM on April 13, 2011 [3 favorites]

Another wild springtime vegetable: stinging nettle.
posted by No Robots at 12:09 PM on April 13, 2011

I love dandelion greens. Be aware that many, many Americans will still think you're insane for eating them though.
posted by 1adam12 at 12:10 PM on April 13, 2011

we used to have them sometimes when I was a kid -- my dad ate them when he was a kid (semi-subsistence farm in the country during the depression), and he liked them. They're actually quite good, as I recall. If they're too bitter, just hit them with a little lemon juice or vinegar. (Beet and radish greens are also great.)

never ate the blossoms or the root, though.

trying to grow more of our own greens, so this is inspiring -- they'll be up before my arugula is.
posted by lodurr at 12:11 PM on April 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

Delicious, but if not done correctly, inedibly bitter.
posted by oneironaut at 12:12 PM on April 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

Last year I tried making dandelion schnapps. It was a little odd, sort of sunny but also... brown-tasting. I couldn't figure out a great way to drink it, as it was too strong on its own, but maybe I'll try again this year.
posted by showbiz_liz at 12:12 PM on April 13, 2011

I had an uncle that made dandelion wine every year. I can't say it was good, but they were letting me drink it at age 14 or so. I didn't really care about good. I was drinking wine!
posted by COD at 12:12 PM on April 13, 2011

met a guy once who made dandelion wine. he told me that if you drank enough to get drunk, you were likely to have the shits pretty bad.
posted by lodurr at 12:15 PM on April 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

Speaking of scurvy season, my great uncle Joe once told me that his mom, my great great grandmother, would send him out to the fields looking for greens in the seasons when the garden wasn't producing. Root veg being OK, but great great grammie knew the kids needed more vitamins. Dandelion and nettle were among the greens he listed. I believe he also mentioned lamb's quarters, fiddleheads and purslane.
posted by LN at 12:18 PM on April 13, 2011 [2 favorites]

I grew up with my mother's Italian cooking and the fact that dandelion is not eaten by everyone at least once a week is mind boggling to me.

Saute in olive oil with garlic. Add a little salt. It is the perfect side to any protein, delicious over pasta, or great eaten out of a giant full bowl.

And now that I live in a city with no Italians (Portland) I need to hunt some down.
posted by munchingzombie at 12:19 PM on April 13, 2011 [2 favorites]

I used to have to go out to the yard to pick the dandelion leaves for salads growing up. It was too bitter for me to enjoy as a kid, and we were raised eating endive and other bitter greens, but dandelions was a touch too much for me.
It's nice that you can buy dandelion greens in Essex market here on the Lower East Side. My tastebuds can handle them now.
posted by newpotato at 12:20 PM on April 13, 2011

Be incredibly careful if you ever decide to harvest stinging nettles; "stinging" is an understatement, as even slight brush will leave you with the sensation of having burned yourself, and like a burn, this sensation will linger for hours. We had stinging nettles in our yard, and one faint brush with the stuff was enough to send me into an herbicidal fury. It marked the only time I've used chemicals on my lawn, and without regret.
posted by foldedfish at 12:26 PM on April 13, 2011

Yum!! My fave. It's available in many a Roman restaurant: cicoria. I made some the other day. One Italian recipe. (I bought my dandelions at Whole Foods.)
posted by NailsTheCat at 12:30 PM on April 13, 2011

That name - cicoria - reminds me of chickory. Are the plants related?
posted by Fraxas at 12:36 PM on April 13, 2011

In an attempt to date the humongous non-fruiting plum in my front yard, I started digging into local history to discover if it was remotely possible that the tree could have been planted 60 years before my house was built. Ends up that four families settled the area around Mount Tabor in Portland, OR around the mid-1850s. The family that owned the area my house was built on actually had plum and cherry groves.

Their neighbor to the west was a guy named David Prettyman. His father, a Dr. Perry Prettyman was the original large land claimant and lived to the north of his son. Dr. Prettyman had studied medicine at the Botanical Medical School in Baltimore and was more of a naturopath than a medical doctor.

For those of us living in the Pacific Northwest, we can thank (or vilify) Dr. Perry Prettyman for importing the dandelion to our chunk of North America has a medicinal plant in 1847. Dr. Prettyman rode around on horseback prescribing various bits of the dandelion and other plants to the sick until his death in 1872.
posted by Johnny Hazard at 12:38 PM on April 13, 2011 [3 favorites]

This is also the season to pick mustard greens in many places.
Like dandelions, they are not native to the Americas, so don't worry too much about over-harvesting.
Where I am, they are still small and tender. Later, as summer hits hard, the leaves will be tough and bitter, requiring blanching before use.

Last year I kept waiting for a large patch to go to seed, but I never found any large seed heads to make mustard from.
posted by Seamus at 12:43 PM on April 13, 2011

It's available in many a Roman restaurant: cicoria.
That name - cicoria - reminds me of [chicory]. Are the plants related?

Cicoria can refer to several different plants in Italian. What we call chicory can be called cicoria matta or cicoria comune. What we call dandelions can be called cicoria selvatica or (confusingly) cicoria matta.

If the Italian Wikipedia is anything to go by, the default meaning of cicoria appears to be what we call chicory in the US. In any event, they are in the same tribe but different genera.
posted by jedicus at 12:46 PM on April 13, 2011

That name - cicoria - reminds me of chickory. Are the plants related?

Yes, I believe cicoria is pretty much the same as chicory--standing by to be corrected instantly--although this seems to agree. The dish is traditionally made from whatever wild plants are available. So dandelions (what I normally use) works too.
posted by NailsTheCat at 12:49 PM on April 13, 2011

standing by to be corrected instantly

Corrected before I even posted!
posted by NailsTheCat at 12:50 PM on April 13, 2011

For the more courageous (or perhaps foolhardy) out there, this is also the season for poke salad/salat/sallet.
posted by jedicus at 12:52 PM on April 13, 2011

Getting hungry now. There is also puntarelle, which it seems is also a member of the chicory family. These are only in season for about two hours (or so it seemed) some time in March or April. Normally served in lemony dressing, more like a salad.
posted by NailsTheCat at 1:00 PM on April 13, 2011

The lawn-harvesting folk have got me thinking -- assuming I wash the greens REALLY, REALLY, REALLY well, how nuts would it be for me to pick them in my local (NYC) parks?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:42 PM on April 13, 2011

OK. As soon as I read this thread, I had to go pick some dandelion greens. I prepared them as munchingzombie suggested, but I did boil them in salt water first. They were still a bit bitter, but delicious. I'm thinking a dandelion green and Italian sausage pasta dish might be in my future.
posted by mmmbacon at 1:43 PM on April 13, 2011

The following document turned up as a "reply all" in my inbox a couple years ago. I always liked dandelions, but this gave me a new appreciation for them.


Detoxification is the process of removing toxins. In looking at ways detox, I need to know that the method chosen is locally accessible, resiliently abundant (to remain a sustainable presence), and time tested (true, not trendy).

We have a lot to learn from the natural world around us. Dandelion’s (Taraxacum officinale) job in nature is to remove toxins and pollution. Generally, dandelions revitalize – they don’t naturally grow on healthy ground. They tend to congregate on land that needs their help. Some folks spend a lot of time and money spraying toxins to get rid of them, which encourages more growth when they report for duty in even more massive numbers to help remove the freshly applied toxins.

Considering where we live, I think it’s a good idea to detox the land before eating or using plants for medicinal purposes. I had a friend, Tis Mal Crow, a Muskogee healer who specialized in plant medicines for neurological and cardiovascular problems. He recommended treating the land with a combination of Dandelion and Yarrow compost in the spring as a poultice and rake it away in the fall. It’s important to remove the compost from where you intend to grow anything, because the compost contains the pollution that was absorbed on your behalf.

Dandelions are a bitters that can help remove toxins from the liver, blood, and gallbladder, while adding iron, potassium, vitamin A, calcium, fiber and vitamin C to your diet. The potassium is particularly important as dandelions are a mild diuretic. They simultaneously replete the potassium they remove through dieresis so you don’t lose potassium.

In Ayurveda, the different doshas typically detox at different times seasonally (Vata fall to late winter; Pitta summer to early fall; Kapha late winter to spring. So use of seasonally available roots or leaves might be a consideration realizing that different parts of the plant contain medicine in different season - roots should be harvested fall or spring when the medicine is moving in the roots while leaves are best in the spring. As a “Pitta” it’s significant to me that dandelions are also good for digestion and stomach acid issues that unbalanced “Pitta” doshas are prone to – like heartburn and indigestion, unless you overuse the plant, in which case it will create or exacerbate the problems you sought to reduce.

Dandelion (which energetically increases digestive fire and stimulates bile production) should be used in conjunction with drinking plenty of water, preferably spring water, to rehydrate and wash toxins away. Dandelion greens can be worked in small amounts into your diet by adding it fresh to soups, stews, mixed into mashed potatoes, fried mashed potatoes, pureed like spinach, remembering the leaves should be fried or wilted, not boiled, to avoid destroying medicinal properties. I was also taught that the amount of medicinal value you receive from a plant is directly proportional to the respect you show it – explain to it what you need, make an offering, and ask permission before using it if you need help in healing. Plants grow in families – only take what you need - never take the babies or grandparents.

The powdered root can also be mixed with equal parts of flour with enough water added to make the mixture into a dough. Form into pill-sized balls, taken with meals.

Directions for making an herbal tincture can be found in The Women’s Book of Healing Herbs referenced below.
Salade de Pissenlit
Choose healthy, young leaves free of pesticides, herbicides, exhaust from passing cars, etc. Wash and put in salad bowl. Chop a few slices of bacon into small pieces and fry until crisp (chopped onion/garlic optional). Then add a tablespoon of white wine or white wine vinegar to the pan, heat up, and while it is still hot, pour very quickly over the dandelion leaves.

Leaf Tea:
Pour two cups of boiling water over two tablespoons of pesticide-free dandelion leaves. Steep 15 minutes. Drink 2 cups a day a tablespoon at a time.

Root Tea:
Boil 1 teaspoon of dandelion root in 3 cups of water for 30 minutes. Remove from heat, cool. Drink up to 2 cups per day, 1 tablespoon at a time. (Boiling reduces potency)

Considerations: Dandelion is a mild natural diuretic. While it replaces the potassium your body excretes, it’s important to check with your doctor before using for contraindications. When overused, dandelion can cause diarrhea, stomach upset.

Native Plants Native Healing, Traditional Muskogee Way, Tis Mal Crow 2001 Native Voices Book Publishing Company Pg. 118-120

Secrets of Native American Herbal Remedies by Anthony J. Cichoke, D.C., Ph.D. 2001 Penguin Putnam, Inc. Pg. 40

The Green Witch Herbal, Restoring Nature’s Magic in Home, Health, and Beauty Care by Barbara Griggs 1994 Healing Arts Press, Rochester Vermont Pgs. 91-43

Folk Medicine in Southern Appalachia by Anthony Cavender 2003 The University of North Carolina Press Pg. 127

The Women’s Book of Healing Herbs by Sari Harrar and Sara Altshul O’Donnell 1999 by Rodale Press Pg 92-95

Inner Beauty, Discover Natural Beauty and Well-Being with the Traditions of Ayurveda by Reenta Malhotra Hora 2005 Raincoast Books Pgs. 130-131
posted by aniola at 2:02 PM on April 13, 2011 [2 favorites]

I've long held that a rogue biochemist should insert the THC producing gene from marijuana into the dandelion. There's no way they can be eradicated.
posted by yesster at 2:24 PM on April 13, 2011 [7 favorites]

I've had dandelion wine. An old girlfriend's father used to make it.
posted by Sailormom at 2:27 PM on April 13, 2011

The lawn-harvesting folk have got me thinking -- assuming I wash the greens REALLY, REALLY, REALLY well, how nuts would it be for me to pick them in my local (NYC) parks?

One thing it would depend on is what pesticides are used, if any, and how recently they were applied. Some pesticides are only approved on food crops if they are applied a certain number of days before harvest. Carbaryl, for example, should not be applied to leafy vegetables—including dandelions specifically—less than 14 days before harvest (source [pdf]).
posted by jedicus at 3:01 PM on April 13, 2011

They're rabbit food, which is good, because I have a rapacious rabbit.
posted by joannemullen at 3:10 PM on April 13, 2011

John McPhee's profile of Euell Gibbons includes at least two or three helpings of dandelions:

" ... Gibbons had the two frying pans out and was beginning to sauté dandelion roots in one and sliced groundnuts in the other ... the dinner he served was outstanding - wild-spearmint tea, piles of crisp dandelion-root tidbits, and great quantities of groundnuts so skillfully done that they seemed to be a refinement of home-fried potatoes. ... "

" ... We built a high bonfire that whipped in the wind. The dandelions, boiled in three waters, were much better than they were the night before, and the oyster mushrooms might have been taken from a banquet for the Olympian gods. ... "

Reading it gave me a huge craving for dandelion greens - especially if they could be prepared by someone as skilled as Gibbons.
posted by kristi at 3:15 PM on April 13, 2011

Oh man, last summer I made dandelion jelly and it was tasty! It used the (yellow) heads and came out looking and tasting very similar to honey.
posted by julie_of_the_jungle at 3:23 PM on April 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

Come to Buffalo. Not hard to get a steak and dandelion sandwich at the Taste of Buffalo or the Italian fest. No one looks at you funny. We also eat the cardoon and egg.
posted by oflinkey at 4:45 PM on April 13, 2011

I quite like the greens and used to munch on them from the yard when I was growing up. Now that I live in an urban area, I never trust them to be free of pesticides or dog pee. But I often stare at the bright green clumps and think about it really, really hard.
posted by troublewithwolves at 8:48 PM on April 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

Fun fact: dandelion with a French accent is known as pissenlit (piss in bed).
posted by Mister Bijou at 11:27 PM on April 13, 2011

Forget the greens, I say, and eat the flower! This spring I finally gave in to my curiosity and at some. There is a piece of yard near my apt that has been left to go wild, and the most fragrant, beautiful yellow blooms have been coming up. Free food! They taste really good, nicely sweet especially with a handful of walnuts.

I tried to make a dandelion flower & banana smoothie...it was alright. There was enough green in the bud to turn it greenish.

My understanding was that you should pick the greens just before the flower blooms--do it before, and they're not so good.
posted by Thinkmontgolfier at 3:06 AM on April 14, 2011

^To be clear: I have been eating them raw. The flowers aren't bitter, but sweet, and it would seem a shame to cook them (I'm a bit of a raw foodie anyway). Though I might try drizzling them with a good olive oil.
posted by Thinkmontgolfier at 3:25 AM on April 14, 2011

^ should read "[pick the greens] after [they bloom], and they're not so good."
posted by Thinkmontgolfier at 3:28 AM on April 14, 2011

Many of my neighbors make excellent dandelion wine, but it ain't my cup of tea.
posted by Hey, Zeus! at 5:23 AM on April 14, 2011

Funny how we're so affluent we have free food growing on our front lawn, and our first impulse is to get rid of it.

There are likely people who live off that food (or the food in your trees). There are in my neighborhood.

I think we'll come back to it at some point. We'll have to.

As for dandelions, I love them when they're not in my yard. The buggers are annoying to dig out and they spread like weeds. LITERALLY.

met a guy once who made dandelion wine. he told me that if you drank enough to get drunk, you were likely to have the shits pretty bad.

To be fair this is also true with:

- Milwaukee's Best
- Natural Light
- Keystone and Keystone Light
- Coors and Coors Light
- Busch
- Burgie's
- Weideman's
- American
- Fall's City
etc etc
posted by mrgrimm at 8:48 AM on April 14, 2011

Dear Metafilter:

Last night, because of this thread, I ate a dinner of shad roe with a side of dandelion greens. Thank you.
posted by oneironaut at 10:19 AM on April 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

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