The wonder of the sunny little Dandelion

Some see a weed, and some see a wish.

What do you see when you see a beautiful yellow dandelion flower blowing in the breeze? If you had asked me this a year ago, I would have surely said a wish, but I also thought the dandelion plant was a weed and nothing of such importance. But, fast forward to now as I continue on with my nature studies, and boy was I wrong!

My little munchkin running through the dandelions

My little munchkin running through the dandelions

What some may consider a pesky weed, and thus claim open-war on by pulling up out of their garden from day-to-day, is actually a super food which is jam-packed with nutrients, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants to help us live a healthier life. Dandelions have been eaten as a food, consumed as a drink, prescribed as a medicine, used as a dye and as an ingredient in apothecary products probably, since the beginning of time. Every part of the dandelion plant can be used for something! In actual fact, according to history books, the plant is believed to have lived on Planet Earth for around 30 million years.

The health benefits of dandelion include relief from liver disorders, diabetes, urinary disorders, acne, jaundice, cancer and anemia. It also helps in maintaining bone health, skin care and is a benefit to weight loss programs — Organic Facts

One of the first signs that Spring is here, is the influx of pretty yellow things beautifying the sides of roads and grasslands. Personally, I was so excited when all our dandelions first came up on our family property Upstate New York. Fairly so, as we experienced a brutal, long and cold winter this past season; I am glad to be on to longer and sunnier warmer days. However, I was in a bit of dilemma. Dandelion flowers are one of the first foods of Spring for our dwindling bee population, and that bothered me. I have never been a big fan of cut flowers either, but as now I had learned that they were so magical, it was either have our gardener cut them down when mowing the lawns, or harvest them for personal use. Either way, they were not going to be around long for the bees. I decided, that I did not want to see these precious little things go to waste, so I wild harvested as many of them as I could.

The dandelion plant can be eaten in entirely; leaves, buds and flowers

The dandelion plant can be eaten in entirely; leaves, buds, roots and flowers

It took me a few hours to gather as many of the plants as I did, which I then separated into 3 different bowls – buds, leaves and flowers. You can also harvest the root for a coffee substitute and as a tea but this is not suggested until the end of Autumn. The repetitive movement working with the plants on a hands-on level really gave me firsthand experience on how the dandelion plant feels, looks and is. Unless, you are a farmer, you are not exposed to that understanding when you pick food up from the market, so I was grateful for that.

So what did I do with my wild harvested dandelion plants?

The flowers
I dried the flowers in the sun to make infused oils when I play apothecary. Infused oils are a wonderful addition to homemade creams and beauty products. I also plan on using the flowers in tea. Aren’t they pretty!
The leaves of dandelion flowers can also be used in salads, and some people like to make a Mead or Wine from them.

I dried these flowers in the sun & am actually selling them on my Etsy page HERE

I dried these flowers in the sun & am actually selling them on my Etsy page HERE

The buds
Apparently, the buds are the cream of the crop if you are lucky enough to be able to find them. Fortunately for me, I found a ton as I harvested the plants as soon as they popped up out of the ground.
I love capers, so the idea of pickling the buds, really took my fancy. While I was doing recipe research online I kept finding recipes using Tamari sauce so I decided to try it out for myself. What I did is fairly straight forward. I took a large mason jar, and filled it up with the buds which put them at half full. I then added half a chopped yellow onion, a few fresh ginger slices and 15 cloves of sliced garlic. I filled the jar a third of the way up with tamari sauce, and the rest with apple cider vinegar. I will shake the mixture every few days, and open it up in 4 weeks from now to see how it tastes!
But, if tamari sauce is not your thing, here are 3 different bud pickling recipes for consideration.

Okay, 4 weeks to go before we get to taste these pickled dandelion buds

Okay, 4 weeks to go before we get to taste these pickled dandelion buds

The leaves
Once gathered, my Son helped me to put them in a big bowl of water to soak overnight, as apparently this helps with the bitterness. He loves to help in the kitchen. Our bulldog Mohawk looked on hoping to get some scrapes, I swear all she does all day is think about food!
My father-in-law told me, that as a boy growing up in Croatia, his Mother would take him into the grasslands to gather dandelion greens so they could eat them as food. So being the resident dandelion expert, he sautéed them traditionally in olive and garlic. I will say that the whole bowl you see in the picture reduced to the smallest fist-size serving after cooking. It was really crazy, and only enough to feed one person (if that). So, I was nominated the lucky duck to do so.
The dandelions tasted bitter, but refreshingly so. I am assuming that eating dandelion greens are something that you have get used to, and are more of an acquired taste.

Little munchkin helping me soak the leaves overnight

Little munchkin helping me soak the leaves overnight

Dandelions are high in calcium and vitamin A & K. Being one of the most nutritionally dense greens a person can eat, they are also a good sources of iron, potassium, fiber, vitamin C, vitamin E and manganese. As mentioned, the dandelion is used to treat acne in skin, reducing the risk of cancer and urinary tract issues, strengthening bones, promoting digestion, weight loss and stimulating insulin production which lowers blood sugar levels in diabetics. Not forgetting though, that you can also make pretty little dandelion chains to wear around your neck from them too!

What about you, do you have something special that you like to do with the wonderful dandelion plant?

Thanks for stopping by Willy B Mum, I hope this posting has led you on to a new discovery, created some new ideas.

Peace, Love and Plants Make the World Go Around!

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