The Forest At Home: Dandelions

Digging up roots!

Dandelions – a strangely divisive little plant. Seemingly everyone wants this tenacious flower off of their lawn, but aside from being a wonderful friend to pollinators, did you know that the whole plant is edible?

It’s true!

The roots, stems, leaves, and flower are all you’re too enjoy at differing times of the season! So I’m going to show you a super simple way to reconnect with this little friend and get you outside while making yourself a delicious beverage – right from your front yard!

Identifying A Dandelion

Vintage Dandelion Botanical Illustrations
Source: Printablee

First things first, how do you identify a dandelion? You might think “oh that’s easy, I see them everywhere,” but actually, there are a few dandelion copycats which you may have accidentally spotted on your walk!

Common Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)
– Perennial
– Bitter, milky sap, thick taproot
– Basal leaves (this means they grow from the bottom of the stem only)
– Triangular, backward pointing leaves
– 5-40cm tall
– Single ray flower per stem, hollow and leafless stalks
– Flowering from May – August

Common lookalikes:
– Sow-Thistles (Sonchus spp.) – leaves grow up the entire stalk
– Yellow Salsifies (Tragopogon spp.) – leaves long and slender growing up stalk
– Cat’s Ear (Hypochaeris radicata) – stalks not hollow, flowers are branching

What To Avoid & Keep in Mind

Making mud pies during foraging is highly encouraged!

With all plants, it’s always crucial to avoid roadsides from about 25-100m and any locations that may use herbicides or pesticides. Unfortunately, that means a lot of suburban foraging spots might be ruled out as an option, but your own yard or forests are a great choice! If you’re unsure, it’s always best to avoid those locations until you can check with maintenance in your area – your health is important, please don’t take risks with it!

It’s also helpful to remember that even though all parts of dandelion are edible, if you’ve never had it before it’s always best to test the plant! Try touching dandelions to your arm and waiting 45 minutes to test, then touching it to your lips and waiting 45 minutes to test, then touching it to your tongue and waiting 45 minutes to test, then eat a small portion of them to see how your body reacts!

What, When, and How to Forage

Some similarly flavoured chicory coffee!

All parts of a dandelion can be foraged – that means that for beginners this is an awesome place to start!

Roots
– Autumn to Spring (unless your ground is frozen solid, of course)
– Dig down and around the root to pull it up, can be longer than a carrot or parsnip but typically slimmer depending on the age of the plant
– Can be eaten raw, peeled and cooked, or dehydrated and ground up to create a delightful dandelion coffee!

Dandelion Flower Botanical Drawing
Source: Printablee


Leaves
– Foraged young in early spring to early summer – the older the plant, the more bitter and unenjoyable they become
– The sunnier the area it grows in, the more bitter the leaves, so looking for shaded areas is beneficial but double boiling the leaves can remove some of the bitterness!
– Cook like any other leafy green in soups, salads, etc.

Flower & Petals
– Can be collected while the plant is flowering, but younger is always better
– Can be used to create dandelion wine
– Unopened buds can be eaten raw or cooked

Seeds
– Remove the fluffy parachute above
– Eat on their own
– Grind into flour
– Use to grow sprouts that you can eat as well

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