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Foraging for Dandelions, Benefits and Uses of the Common Dandelion

Dandelions, the easiest plant to forage.

Most people tend to view dandelions as an utter nuisance, especially after all the hard work of keeping their lawn and garden in pristine shape. And I used to also, but that was before discovering just how incredible these plentiful cheerful yellow puffball wonders really are. Not only are they edible, but they’re filled with crucial vitamins and minerals that your body needs. 

A bowl full of foraged dandelion blossoms.

Even the Native Americans and ancient Chinese were aware of this and used dandelions with their medicines. Do I have your attention? Keep reading to learn more about foraging for dandelions along with the many health benefits that they bring.     

Plant name 

The dandelion has many common names to which they’re often referred to. Several of them include blow-ball, bitterwort, puffball, clockflower, cankerwort, lion’s tooth, priest’s crown, and Irish daisy. The perennial herb’s scientific name is taraxacum and it happens to be a part of the Asteraceae family. 

A botanical illustrastion from Kohler’s “Medizinal-Pflanzen” of 1898
A botanical illustration of the dandelion from Kohler’s “Medizinal-Pflanzen” of 1898

Parts Used

As it turns out, every part of the dandelion is edible and can be used by people. Although most prefer to eat only the flower part of the herb, the root is a rich source of carbohydrate insulin. The stem and leaves are also packed with vitamins and minerals and are best eating raw while they’re still young. The older they get, the more bitter these parts of the dandelion will become.  

A dandelion plant with the leaves and flowers showing.

When and where it grows

Although native to Eurasia, dandelions are widespread throughout most parts of North America. They can grow pretty much anywhere and can be found in any soil condition, especially on lawns, pastures, orchards, and along the roadside. The growing season for dandelions lasts from May until about October, but May and June are the months that they’re most prolific.  

How to Identify

As far as herbs are concerned, dandelions are probably the easiest to recognize, with their bright yellow blooms and their prickly lion tooth shaped leaves that grow only at the base of the plant. False dandelions appear similar to dandelions and are also safe to eat. When it comes to foraging dandelions, it’s comforting to know that there are no poisonous lookalikes that you need to watch out for. 

A closeup image of a yellow dandelion bloom.

Culinary Uses

There’s a slight sweetness to the flower part of the dandelion, which is why people are able to eat dandelions even while they’re raw. But if this doesn’t sound appetizing to you, dandelions taste great in a salad, sauteed, creamed, or when added to a stirfry. Dandelion roots can also be enjoyed when brewed as a coffee substitute or combined with your favorite tea ingredients. You can capture the essence of Summer by brewing homemade dandelion wine or mead.  You can also use dandelion petals to make syrup, jam, jelly or add them to baked goods.

A jar of dandelion jelly.

Dandelion Recipes You Might Enjoy:

Health Uses

This may come as a big surprise to you, but dandelions are more jam-packed with key minerals, nutrients, and antioxidants than nutrient-dense greens like kale and spinach. Especially vitamins A, C, and K. Because of this fascinating secret, dandelions are able to help neutralize free radicals and inflammation in the body and decrease your risk of several types of chronic diseases. 

A dandelion plant with the roots still attached.

Do you struggle with stomach and digestive issues fairly often? The root of the dandelion is capable of detoxifying both the liver and gallbladder, while also improving overall kidney function at the same time. Consuming dandelion on a regular basis is able to help lower blood pressure and regulate blood sugar levels, as well as lowering cholesterol.    

How to Harvest

Harvesting dandelions is simple enough. The best time to harvest the leaves and the green parts of the plant is before the flower even starts to bloom. Take a pair of scissors and snip off the flowers and leaves, but leave the stem. This will allow the dandelion to regenerate, and you can benefit from the same plant several times throughout the growing season. Before consuming, be sure to thoroughly wash your dandelions after they’re picked. 

A bowl of dandelion blossoms with a pair of scissors to one side.

How to Store 

The key to storing dandelions is to keep them out of the light. First, rinse them off using cool water and allow them to try on a towel. Afterward, wrap them loosely with a damp paper towel and place them inside an open Ziploc bag. Lastly, store the bag in the vegetable compartment of your refrigerator. This should keep them nice and crisp. Even when stored properly with this method, dandelions will only last you for up to 2 to 3 days, so you’ll want to use them up shortly after harvesting. 

Foraging for dandelions is a natural and easy way to add vitamins and minerals to your diet, but remember never to harvest ones that may have been sprayed with toxic chemicals or fertilizer. Also, avoid consuming dandelions that are found in high foot traffic areas. Do you know of any other uses or health benefits that dandelions bring that you’d be willing to share?