Dandelions are easy to spot, especially once in bloom (from March to November), with their tall yellow flowers blossoming on fleshy stems with a milky sap.
The leaves are deep-toothed, glossy bright green, growing in rosettes from the base of the plant. In French, they’re called ‘dent de lion’ – meaning lion’s teeth, which bears reference to it’s jaggedy tooth-like leaves.
The seed head is a white puffball (impossible to walk past without picking, blowing and making a wish!).
The Dandelion provides us with three crops – roots, leaves and flowers. The leaves are at their best when young (picked before the plant comes into flower). After this point, you may find them a little bitter.
Flowering period is late March – early May, though the odd flower can be found throughout the year. The flowers should be cut when they are newly opened, and all the petals are still retained.
Locating dandelions is rarely a problem, given they grow in abundance. They can be found on lawns, in gardens, parks, meadows and pastures – blanketed with dots of bright sunny yellow flowers.
Leaves | All Year Round
Flowers | March – May
Using the Leaves:
Young Dandelion leaves can be used in salads, cooked or raw – they have a distinctively bitter taste, similar to chicory or endive.
Using the Flowers:
The flowers also make a deliciously dry wine. It’s been likened to mead, with a hint of honey taste to it – delicious!
The petals can also be used fresh as a bright addition to salads or sweet treats, to make a syrup or an alcoholic infusion, or even added to cooked rice for a delicately floral flavour (note the flowers are at their most flavourful if picked in full sunshine).
The petals make a glorious dandelion jam or jelly – a sweet sticky floral syrup that makes a super vegan alternative to honey, perfect for a wildly inspired cream tea.
Another favourite of ours is dandelion vinegar, which has a delicate sweetness that pairs well with the sharpness of the vinegar. The yellow hue of the vinegar, after infusing with the dandelion blossoms, adds a lovely touch of colour to your salad dressings or homemade mayonnaise!
Another fun and easy way to use these abundant blooms is in these dandelion pancakes.
Using the Roots:
The roots can be dried, roasted, cooled and then ground into a coffee bean substitute – it might not blow your socks off if you’re an avid coffee lover, but it makes for a natural decaffeinated coffee drink, ideal for an evening brew. Dandelion root has a sweet, nutty, caramel flavour – so can also be used infused in chocolate desserts or sauces.
To combat the bitterness of the dandelion, you can force the leaves (based on the same process as with rhubarb), by popping an upturned pot with a few small holes in and leaving the plant for 2-3 weeks – this turns the leaves much sweeter.
Last but not least – the young flower buds can also be picked, salted and pickled to make a wild caper.
Here are a handful of ideas and recipes to get you started:
Dandelions are an excellent source of vitamins A, C, and K. They also contain vitamin E, folate, and small amounts of other B vitamins and have multiple medicinal uses.
Firstly, it’s a diuretic, which is where it’s unfortunate name ‘piss-a-bed’ derives from. Diuretics help rid your body of salt and water – helping your kidneys release more sodium into your wee! The sap from the stems can be used to treat verrucas and warts.
A tincture brewed from the bright yellow flowers is believed to help with complaints related to the liver, and the root can be dried and brewed into a tea as well – an extensive list of wonders from this lovely sunshine bloom.
The traditional day to pick dandelions was said to be St George’s Day on the 23rd April!
It’s been said if you blow on a dandelion puff, the tiny seeds will carry a wish for you. Also, hold a dandelion bloom under your chin – if your skin appears yellow, you’ll be rich someday – hand over the Dandies!
If you find dandelions popping up everywhere on your lawn or through patio cracks, you can try to get rid of them, but better still – why not embrace them and their multiple uses – both medicinal and edible! They’re also a great early source of nectar and pollen for insects, so they’re worth tolerating where possible.
Here’s a lovely Poem by Paula Kok – De Boer.
When consumed as a vegetable in moderate quantities, Dandelions are non-toxic. But when eaten in large amounts, it can cause damage to the body given that they are rich in oxalates – too much oxalate may cause issues for those with kidney sensitivities.
Dandelion is a member of the Aster Family (Daisy family), which contains many species with similar flowers – Hawkweeds, Narrowleaf Hawk’s Beards, Sow Thistles, and Goat’s Beard to name a few. Luckily all of which are non-toxic, should you mistake it.
Many of our Cookery Courses include a short foraging walk as part of the day, introducing you to a handful of commonly found wild ingredients.
Essential if you’re picking on private land. As with everything, respect is key and goes a long way.
If in doubt, leave it out.
Why rush? Nature isn’t going anywhere! Take time to ensure you safely identify your finds.
One step at a time.
No one becomes an expert overnight. Build up your identification skills and your confidence will grow.
Enjoy the process.
Foraging is not only about what you pick but the experience – Immerse yourself in nature and appreciate the little things. The fresh air, birds chirping, a light breeze or the feel of soil beneath your feet.
With an abundance of forage at your doorstep, why not start local?
The 10% rule.
Only take what you need (or 10% of what is available). This not only means that you leave plenty for other foragers, but also local wildlife. We want to enjoy our ecosystem not damage it.
Leave room for regrowth.
Never uproot a plant so that it is always able to regrow after you have foraged from it.
Wash before consumption.
Always give your foraging finds a good wash before consuming, especially when picking on busy routes/path.