“When you look at a field of dandelions, you can either see a hundred weeds or a hundred wishes.”
I have fallen in love with the humble dandelion this year. I started really working with herbs, learning about them and all the amazing things they can do for us, late spring to early summer last year, well after prime dandelion foraging time, so I was very excited to head out and start collecting these bright little beauties this spring. Unfortunately, our early spring was cold and wet, but we’ve had enough nice days lately that I have been able to gather quite a harvest. And it’s been so refreshing being able to enjoy some time out of the house during this time when we are all staying safe, staying healthy, and staying home! I’ve even caught myself eyeing the grassy area around our local Rural King when I’ve driven by. I almost drove into the parking lot to ask if I could pick their dandelions. haha!!
Dandelions are amazing!! Did you know early Americans did not see them as weeds, but as an important part of their diet and their medicine chests? Rather than trying to eradicate them from their yards, they were cultivated as treasured plants, providing food and medicine to early settlers. When I read that, I knew I’d have to know more. So I hit the internet and the blogs of some of my favorite homesteaders, and found a wealth of information.
From those blogs, which I’ll note below, and just simple Google searches, I found all kinds of cool ideas. Currently, I have mixed dandelion greens and kale, which I sauteed with onion and garlic, dandelion oil, dandelion tincture, dandelion vinegar, and dried dandelion petals which I plan to add to a dandelion shortbread cookie recipe I found for a tea party I hope to host this summer, once things get back to normal. (More on that later.) (NOTE: I’ll add the link for the cookie recipe once I convert it to gluten and dairy free and make them.) The health benefits are astounding, and the processes are so simple. It’s hard to understand how this humble weed has gotten such a bad reputation.
I’m also drying dandelions for tea. Now, if you’re “in the know” about dandelions, you may be saying to yourself that I’m doing the tea all wrong. And you may be right. Some experts say to use only the leaves from plants that haven’t flowered yet. Some say to use only the flowers. And then there’s the fresh vs dried points of view. I decided to do this just for me, and do a bit of an experiment using both, and only dried since that’s the best way for me to do herbal teas. I do know that since I have flowers with the leaves that they are past the optimum foraging point, but, as I mentioned earlier, I got a little bit of a late start. I did try to get smaller, newer leaves, so I’ll see how it tastes. The tea health benefits may not be as significant as they would be if I had been able to get out sooner, but I’m sure this will still be a delicious, beneficial beverage. And hopefully next year I’ll get an earlier start with my foraging.
With the oil, I can make salves, lotions, and creams. Rather than rewriting all of the information these blogs have given me, I want to give credit to whom it is due, so the above links will take you directly to their web pages.
So what about you? Have you ventured out to do a bit of foraging? I’m currently learning about other “weeds” that I’m now regretting pulling out and tossing into the compost pile. I have pages of research that I will take out earlier next year, and that’s what you can do with the new knowledge you can gain by checking out the above links – get familiar with it now, and pull it out next winter so you’ll be prepared, basket in hand, to take advantage of these bright, happy, healthy gems that make their appearance each and every year. Who knows, you may find yourself passing by local businesses wondering if they would let you gather their bounty.
On a side note, I have several friends that keep bees. I respect them for the important work they are doing, but it’s not something I am interested in getting into. Plus, while I usually leave older flowers on the plants I harvest from, proportionately, it’s not much. I do plant other flowering plants each year, and the crafty insects that make their way to my yard and gardens will just have to make due with the little I have to offer. :o)
It’s not too late for this year either – dandelions are here to stay, at least for awhile. Find ways to integrate them into your Good Food, to share with family and Dear Friends.