Sunday, May 15, 2011

Foraging 13: Dandelions can be Dandy! And a recipe, of course.

If dandelions were hard to grow, they would be most welcome on any lawn. – Andrew V. Mason

The culprits. Photo: Jennerally, Flickr ccl
So I destroyed a whole lot of edible plant material yesterday when I mowed. A whole lot. It seems the dandelions (or to be proper, Taraxacum officinale) are particularly ferocious this year, due probably to all the rain we’ve been having. Quite tall, and healthy looking, if you can turn your mind to consider this odious lawn guest as perhaps a welcome visitor… They are, after all, a member of the Asteracae family (asters, daisies, etc.).

I say welcome, because believe it or not, all of a dandelion is edible in one way or another. You’ve probably seen dandelion greens in the grocery store, but the flowers, seeds and roots are also edible. I would personally avoid the stocks, because if you ever got any of the white milk in your mouth from picking dandelions you know how nasty it can be. Or perhaps it’s just an acquired taste.

Photo: Daehyun Park, Flickr ccl
So lets get down to brass tacks as to why it should be recommended. One cup of dandelion leaves has the same amount of calcium as 1/2 cup of milk, they are high in potassium, iron, Vitamins A, C and K  as well as many other trace minerals. They are a little high in potassium so care needs to be exercised if using diuretic drugs or compounds.

The seeds – after they have grown their telltale parachutes – can be ground into an addition or substitute for flour, and the unopened buds can be eaten raw. As well, the roots can be peeled sliced and cooked, or dried as a substitute for coffee. 

Dried dandelion root is an ingredient in both homemade root beer as well as dandelion and burdock soda. I can attest to the latter being extremely good. The recipe is in an earlier post.

Last but not least, dandelions are an important source of nectar for the northern hemisphere's beneficial insects like butterflies and bees.

About a week ago I screwed up my courage and ate a piece of dandelion leaf from the garden. I was pleasantly surprised. It was a little peppery but that was all. It would have fit right in to the mesclun salad mixes you buy pre-bagged in the grocery store.

So here’s a little something to try if you’re feeling brave. There will probably be more dandelion how to’s in the future since they bloom all summer.

Recipe: Dandelion Blossom Fritters
Photo: AmberStrcel, Flickr ccl
1 cup milk
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 egg
2 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
30-40 fresh dandelion blossoms, no stem
oil for frying

Pick the dandelion blossoms (fully open) on a nice sunny day. Remember to only harvest from an unpolluted spot, and one that has had no pesticides.

Check the blossoms for any “insect friends” that may be lurking. Wash and set aside.

Heat some oil in a frying pan. Dip each flower into the batter and then place in the oil. Let brown on one side, turn and allow to brown on the other side.

Serve warm. A common dip is maple syrup, or enjoy them as they are.


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