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Wild Food: Dandelion

Put down the weeding fork, these vibrant flowers could hold a whole host of health benefits

The scourge of the proud gardener, the dandelion is often an unwanted interloper on our lawns, but before you get out your trowel, consider leaving a patch untouched and explore their potential advantages

Dandelions have been valued in herbal and folk medicine for centuries, particularly for digestive issues. However, their benefits extend far beyond that, with claims of anti-inflammatory properties,  reducing blood pressure, improving skin conditions and boosting immunity.

This vibrant yellow weed is packed with essential vitamins and minerals crucial for overall health and immunity, including iron, zinc, and vitamins A, B, C, E, and K.

Almost every part of the dandelion is usable, except for the seed heads (commonly known as dandelion clocks) and the stem, which contains a bitter, milky sap.

How to harvest

As with any foraged food, avoid those that may have been exposed to contaminants, like animal waste, car pollution or pesticides. If you are not planning on using the root, take no more than a quarter of the leaves, so the plant will not die. Wash well before use.

Dandelions are bitter which is not to everyone’s taste, but we have some ideas to suit every palate.

Three easy ways to prepare dandelion:

Dandelion Honey

This zesty syrup makes a great vegan alternative to honey.

Place approximately 100 fresh yellow dandelion flower heads, two roughly diced green apples and 1 litre of water in a pan. Simmer for 20 minutes.

Strain the liquid through muslin and weigh. Return the liquid to the pan and add the same weight of white granulated sugar. Reduce to a thick syrup and pour into a clean sterilised jar.

Dandelion Root Coffee

Wash the dandelion root well and slice into small chunks. Roast on a low heat (140c) for 20-25 minutes until a caramel colour.

Place on a clean baking try and leave to dry in a warm, dry place for 48 hours. Grind the dried root in a coffee grinder and store in a clean, sterilised jar for up to a year.

Drink as a liver friendly coffee substitute or use instead of coffee poweder in cakes and baking recipes.

Dandelion Leaf Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette

Dandelion leaves have a pleasant bitterness, similar to rocket and radicchio, so they work well mixed with some milder salad leaves, like baby spinach or a crunchy lettuce. 

A zesty lemon vinaigrette is the perfect accompaniment to the punchy flavours of dandelion.

For the salad:

Handful baby spinach
Handful butterleaf lettuce leaves
Handful crisp lettuce, like iceberg or romaine
Handful young dandelion leaves

For the dressing:

50ml apple cider vinegar
150ml olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tbsp dijon mustard
½ tbsp honey or maple syrup
Salt & pepper to taste
Optional: fresh chopped herbs like mint, basil or oregano

Try a dandelion salad with pan fried steak and a rich dauphinoise potato

How to forage safely

Foraging in the UK offers a unique opportunity to explore the country's diverse ecosystems and enjoy fresh, wild ingredients. Eversfield Organic emphasises the importance of foraging responsibly to ensure both personal safety and ecological health. It's crucial to be equipped with proper identification skills to differentiate between edible plants and their toxic counterparts.

Identifying dandelions while foraging is straightforward due to their distinctive features. Look for bright yellow flowers on hollow stems, and deeply toothed, lance-shaped leaves that form a rosette at the base. The leaves are hairless, and when the stem is broken, it exudes a milky sap. These characteristics make dandelions easily distinguishable from similar-looking plants.

Always forage in safe, unpolluted areas, away from busy roads and possibly contaminated sites. We recommend using trusted guides or apps, and even better, attending workshops or guided foraging walks led by experts.

Remember to adhere to the Countryside Code:

1. Respect nature
2. Leave no trace
3. Only take what you need

By foraging responsibly, you can enjoy the bounty of nature while contributing to the sustainability of the environment.

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