Dandelion greens have made their way into the supermarket, but what about the roots? Dandelion roots are both nutritious and edible. They can be foraged in the early spring before the plants send up flower stalks to minimize bitterness.
Dandelion roots are a common ingredient in herbal bitters, and they’re made into a tincture to cast off winter sluggishness. Dried and roasted roots can be brewed into a convincing herbal coffee substitute. Given that, it’s no surprise that they’re a little bitter to eat. Honestly, they’re a lot less bitter than I’d expect. They were bitter like a spring salad green. Think watercress or endive.
Start by harvesting dandelion roots. Obviously avoid anywhere that was sprayed. It can be tough to dig out the roots if you have clay soil like we do, but often they’ll just pull up roots and all from loose soil.
After you’ve washed the roots, it’s time to peel off their tough outer layer. The outer layer of dandelion roots is a bit like that of a beet. It’s separate from the actual root, and a quick 2-minute boil or steam will loosen it and allow you to peel it right off. They can also be peeled with a knife, but that’s only practical if you have large dandelion roots. Our dandelions cant form a large solid root in our heavy soil, so a quick steam is necessary to peel them.
After a 2 minute steam, pull the dandelion roots out and drop them into ice water. Use your hands to slip the outer peel off the outside of the roots. It should come right off in one piece.
After you’ve peeled the dandelion roots, steam them or boil them for another 5 minutes (or 8 to 10 if you have large roots).
Serve dandelion roots like you would carrots or parsnips. A little salt and butter is tasty, and a splash of apple cider vinegar will help you enjoy the slight bitterness. I think they’d be particularly tasty sliced, and then tossed into a salad with other spring edibles like steamed fiddleheads, ramp greens and maybe a violet or two.