Dandelions are one of the first wild foods I learned to recognize as a child. My father used to take us on foraging walks and loved dandelion greens with butter, salt and a dash of vinegar. The tiny dandelion greens are the best, before they get too bitter, and I absolutely love the unopened buds.
As an adult I have learned to love all parts of the dandelion for food, drink, and medicine. One of my favorite snacks is dandelion blossom fritters, a super easy recipe that is just delicious. I make mine vegan, you don’t really need eggs for the batter. Simply collect several handfuls of blossoms. I don’t really rinse them much, but if you get them from a dusty place, rinse the grit off. I make the batter with flour, egg replacer or aquafaba, salt, a little baking soda and spices. I love using cayenne in these. I save a bit of this mixture aside in a separate bowl, and add water to the rest to make a batter.
Heat a pan with oil (peanut oil tastes great!) and dip the flowers in the wet mixture, then dust with the dry, then dip in the batter again. I like a whole lot of fritter, so I double dip! Then just fry them up until golden brown, and drain on a paper towel. These are best eaten right away, otherwise they get a bit soggy.
The early greens are lovely cooked in boiling water until wilted. Older greens may need the water changed part way through, as they tend to be more bitter. I love them boiled quickly, just wilted and sautéed with garlic, but some eat them raw in salads.
One of my favorite ways to use dandelions is to make jelly. It is a gorgeous jelly, and tastes like honey. Harvest about 6-8 cups of petals. No green bits! Just the yellow and white. Your hands will be yellow by the time that is done. Boil about 8 cups of water and steep the petals for about an hour. Essentially you are making a strong dandelion flower tea. Strain out the petals with cheesecloth and squeeze to get all the good stuff out. Add 2 Tablespoons of lemon juice, a box of pectin (the pink low sugar Sure-Jell is my go-to), and 5 cups of sugar. Boil until it sheets off the spoon or gels up well when you put a bit in the fridge. Then jar it up and process in a boiling water bath for 6 minutes. If your jelly doesn’t set up right, you can reboil it or just use it as syrup on pancakes. Honestly, since I switched to the pink box, I have had very few batches of jam or jelly fail, and I make about 6 batches a week.
Another beautiful thing to do with the flowers is make dandelion wine. Find a friend with an organic farm and ask if you can help weed! I bet they’ll gladly take you up on that. It takes a metric ton of flowers to make a batch of wine, but it is worth the time and energy. I have been obsessed with dandelion wine since reading Ray Bradbury’s book, Dandelion Wine, many years ago. What a love letter to summer! It takes month and months to mature well, but there is nothing like it in the dead of winter!!!
This year I’ll be experimenting with making sweet breads and muffins with the petals. There are several recipes out there that I’ll try to veganize. Last year I found a wonderful collection of recipes called The Dandelion Celebration: A Guide to Unexpected Cuisine by Peter Gail. It is out of print, but you can find used copies on amazon. Here are some links to other dandelion cookbooks. (These are affiliate links, so if you make a purchase, you will help my blog!)
It kind of breaks my heart that most people do not realize just how wonderful and nutritious dandelions are. As with most wild foods, they are nutritionally superior to their tamer cousins. And they grow everywhere! Just make sure if you are picking them for food you get them from a place that does not spray herbicides or toxic weed killers. If you have a yard that you don’t spray, or have a friend with a farm, you are in business! Your tummy will thank you!
Do you have any favorite recipes for dandelions? Please share with me. I love trying new things!!!