Dandelions are exciting to backyard foragers because they’re one of the very first flowers of spring. They’re super easy to identify, and every part of a dandelion is edible. There are literally dozens of things you can make to eat with dandelions, from root to flower. Dandelions are also great as spring medicine, and they can be made into all manner of tinctures, teas, salves and soaps.
Dandelions grow just about everywhere because their seeds are dispersed high into the atmosphere and they’ve colonized just about every habitable place on earth. I’ve heard from a number of people that they just don’t have them, which always surprises me. If you’re short on dandelions, you can always grow your own. The seeds are absurdly cheap, coming in packs of 10,000 seeds or more.
Medicinal Benefits of Dandelions
While dandelions may seem like just another weed, they were once respected as powerful medicine. Modern science is baking up this old knowledge, and peer-reviewed studies are confirming what herbalists have known for centuries.
According to Backyard Medicine, dandelions are used to treat:
- Skin Problems
- Constipation & Fluid Retention
- Urinary Problems
- Liver Issues
- Arthritis & Muscle Tension
Even the dandelion stem is medicinal, and the sap from the stem is used to treat warts, callouses, corns and rough skin.
Ways to Use Dandelion Flowers
Let’s start with the fun part: dandelion flowers. The flowers are edible straight off the plant, and it can be fun to send your children out to gather them for your projects. If they eat a few, no harm and it gets them excited about foraging!
Beyond their use as an edible flower, dandelion blossoms are also medicinal. The flowers are used to treat muscle tension and arthritis.
- Dandelion flower fritters are a simple way to enjoy the flowers with minimal preparation. Here’s a gluten free version too.
- Strawberry Dandelion Cake incorporates dandelion syrup into a homemade spring cake.
- Dandelion Bread adds pleasant floral notes to a tasty sandwich bread.
- Dandelion Candy is something your kids will get excited about. The blossoms are incorporated into a tasty hard candy.
- Dandelion & Honey Ice Cream infuses the flowers into cream for a sweet floral ice cream.
- Dandelion peanut butter cookies are an easy twist on an old classic.
- Dandelion Petal Cookies with Kale Frosting are an interesting way to get both foraged food and veggies into dessert.
- Dandelion “honey” creates a sweet honey like syrup flavored with dandelion petals.
- Dandelion Soda uses a natural ginger bug to carbonate a light homemade spring soda.
- Dandelion Wine is easy to make at home and captures the essence of summer in a bottle.
- Dandelion infused oil is a treatment for sore joints and muscles, used alone or incorporated into salves, soaps and creams like these dandelion shampoo bars, dandelion lotion bars, Dandelion salve or this dandelion lip balm.
- Dandelion honey butter has a delicate floral flavor that’s complemented by the sweetness of honey.
- Dandelion Capers pickle unopened dandelion buds for a homemade caper that anyone can make from their own yard.
Ways to Use Dandelion Leaves
Dandelion leaves are a bitter spring green that helps cleanse the liver and is a welcome break from all the heavy foods of winter. They’re high in vitamins and minerals, particularly potassium and vitamins A and C.
- Dandelion salad is the simplest way to enjoy dandelion greens with just a bit of dressing. This version includes strawberries and balsamic for extra yummy.
Dandelion egg noodles allow you to get all the flavor and nutrition of dandelion greens snuck into homemade pasta.
- Dandelion pizza makes a cream sauce topping for white pizza using dandelion greens and flowers.
- Dandelion chips are just seasoned and oven dehydrated dandelion leaves, made in the same way as the ever popular kale chips.
- Dandelion Pesto uses spicy dandelion greens in place of basil in traditional pesto.
- Minestra combines healthy greens and beans into a full meal, using dandelion greens for a hint of bitterness and extra nutrition.
- Spring detox dandelion decoction uses both the leaves and roots of dandelions, along with several other cleansing herbs to make an overnight detox tea.
- Herbal Kool-Aid combines hibiscus, dandelion leaves and rosehips for a convincing sugar-free kool-aid.
Ways to Use Dandelion Roots
Probably the least used part, dandelion roots don’t get enough attention. Pulling up the roots is the only sure-fire way to get them out of your garden beds, and if you’re going to pull them, you might as well use them. The roots are most commonly used medicinally as a tincture to treat liver issues, constipation, skin problems and fluid retention.
- Dandelion tincture preserves the medicine in the roots for use all year long.
- Dandelion Bitters are a homemade tonic for the liver and a tasty cocktail additive at the same time.
- Roasted dandelion root coffee lets you have a morning coffee ritual, without the caffeine. It tastes surprisingly like coffee, but without the acid.
- Dandelion Root Chai is another take on dandelion root coffee but spiced to make a herbal caffeine-free chai.
- Dandelion tea is made from unroasted roots, and this mix includes other medicinal herbs as well.
- Steamed dandelion roots is a simple way to enjoy them as a vegetable. Dandelion roots cook up just like any garden root crop, and it’s a simple way to get a little early spring nutrition.
- Dandelion Root Infused Honey imparts the medicinal constituents of the dandelion roots into a sweet medicine.
- Dandelion Tea Donuts are a creative way to incorporate dandelions into food. The coffee like dandelion root tea is used to flavor the cake in these homemade donuts.
- Dandelion Kombucha combines probiotics with the health benefits of dandelion roots in a tasty fizzy drink.
What’s your favorite way to use dandelions? Leave a note in the comments below.