Native to North America and Eurasia, dandelions are a perennial plant with a potential to grow up to 12 inches high. There are hundreds of different varieties of dandelions, but they usually have bright yellow blooms with lance-like leaves. Typically considered a nuisance plant, most people are completely unaware of its health benefits.
Can You Eat Dandelions?
Yes, you can. It is fine to eat all parts of the dandelion plant, including its flowers. They have a special place in the herbal medicine field mainly because of the nutrients found in its leaves and flowers.
You get more calcium from one half cup of dandelions than you get from a glass of milk. It is an exceptional source of iron and beats spinach easily. Its leaves contain more vitamin A than you find in carrots. A 55mg serving of dandelion leaves provides you with 535% of your daily requirement of vitamin K. You get about 19mg of vitamin C from a cup of dandelion greens. Other benefits come from its folic acid, potassium, magnesium and other essential minerals found in dandelions.
If you are looking for a great source of fiber, look no further than dandelion leaves. Regular consumption of these leaves prevents constipation and makes you feel full. That is why they can be of great help when you are trying to keep your appetite in control to lose weight. These leaves also play a role in stabilizing your blood sugar, which is why they are equally beneficial for diabetics.
Eating Dandelion Greens
Can you eat dandelions? Yes of course, including dandelion greens. It is true that dandelion greens may have a rather bitter taste, but that bitterness is perfectly balanced by spiciness quite similar to arugula. Even if you opt for mature greens, which can be quite bitter, you can still find ways to balance them.
Dandelion greens should be harvested early in the spring, which is usually the time when they have not flowered yet. You can harvest them again in late fall, which is the right time considering they may have lost some of their bitterness due to a frost. Still, you should opt for young dandelions growing in moist soil and not near roads. If you start your search early in spring, you will find dandelions with the cluster of new buds right above the taproot. These are the best parts of the plant.
When you get young dandelion greens, you can always use them raw in sandwiches and salads. It is important to blanch the greens that have already flowered in water to reduce the bitterness. Do this twice with fresh water. Keep in mind that blanching will help reduce the bitterness of dandelion greens, but it will also reduce the amount of vitamins and nutrients found naturally in dandelions.
Eating Dandelion Flowers
Can you eat dandelions along with the flowers? The answer is again yes. Dandelion flowers are usually a couple of inches wide at maturation. As they have a bittersweet flavor, you can always use them to make wine. You can eat them whole, but it is better to avoid the green sepals because they may taste bitter.
You should look to harvest dandelion flowers in mid-spring; however, they stay usable until fall. You can add the blossoms to your salads to enhance taste, and you can also sauté, fry, or even pickle these flowers. While you can eat dandelion flowers, it is important to ensure that they are free of pesticides. That is probably the reason why wild dandelions are usually tastier that yard dandelions.
Eating Dandelion Roots
Just like other parts of the dandelion plant, you can eat its roots as well. Its root is edible and can be enjoyed in many different ways. You can roast it or use it as a coffee substitute. You can heat it and serve with milk to enjoy its health benefits. Try to harvest the roots in the spring because all the minerals and vitamins are stored in the root during the cold months. Get those long tuber roots, clean them properly, and use in whatever way after chopping them into small pieces.
Cautions to Take
Now you have gathered the fact that all parts of the dandelion plant are edible. However, there are a few things to remember when harvesting and enjoying dandelions.
Avoid harvesting dandelions growing close to a road because they may be contaminated.
Never harvest the plant from an industrial lot because it may be polluted.
Never harvest it from a yard where fertilizers or pesticides may have been used.