When I take young people outdoors to look at plants, I often encourage them to try various wild edibles and medicinals…just little nibbles here and there of common, safe plants…the same ones that have nourished and healed our ancestors.
Without fail, at least half of the group will behave uncomfortably at best…downright grossed out at worst. Some of these kids have never eaten a single bit of food that they have grown or foraged themselves. We have to change that!
So…even if you are a complete newbie at plant identification…even if you have never foraged a single bit of food or medicine…there’s still hope, because: YOU KNOW WHAT A DANDELION LOOKS LIKE.
The entire dandelion is edible from flower to root!
Dip them in a beaten egg and then some cracker crumbs and fry them in a little olive oil or bacon fat. Freeze them to make a beautiful, sunny sweet tea all winter long! Use them to make dandelion bread …just use your favorite zucchini bread recipe and add a cup of the yummy, yellow flowers!
Blanch in salt water and use them as a mock “pasta” or mix in with your favorite pasta! Ferment them with a little salt, garlic and red chilies for a delicious slaw.
Make them in to kimchi! Throw them in to salads, scrambled eggs, or quiche. Add them to lasagna or even on top of pizza. Sauté them with garlic, onion, and spinach. Turn them in to sauerkraut or pesto.
Roast them slowly and brew the best decaf coffee you’ve ever tasted…it tastes like chocolate and caramel! Chop the roots up and add them to any soup or stew…especially creamy potato! Blanche in salted water, cut in to strips, and dress with soy sauce, red chili flakes, rice wine vinegar, sugar, garlic, ginger, and roasted sesame seeds for a balanced side dish that goes beautifully with rice.
Don’t forget that dandelions are also wonderfully medicinal. The root is a powerful diuretic…and it has been shown to lower blood sugar safely and consistently. The root is also being used successfully in clinical trials to treat certain types of cancer. It actually causes cancer cell death! A tea made from the leaves and roots is also effective in treating gallstones.
A couple more notes about dandelions: DANDELIONS ARE NATIVE and don’t let anyone tell you differently. The common dandelion that invades your lawn is actually a cross between the invasive European Taraxacum officinale and Native Taraxacum species, which have always been used by Native people in North America.
Also, when harvesting dandelions, please do so from an area that hasn’t been sprayed with herbicides and pesticides for a few years…and don’t harvest any plants from roadside ditches.
Practicing food sovereignty and going back to the ways of our ancestors doesn’t have to be extreme and it doesn’t have to happen over night. Get to know your plant relatives again…slowly and with care…they are waiting for you. Oh…and your neighbor probably won’t mind you clearing some of those pesky dandelions from your lawn!
By Linda Black Elk
Linda Black Elk Linda (Catawba Nation) is an ethnobotanist specializing in teaching about culturally important plants and their uses as food and medicine. Linda works to protect food sovereignty, traditional plant knowledge, and environmental quality as an extension of the fight against hydraulic fracturing and the fossil fuels industry. She has written for numerous publications, and is the author of “Watoto Unyutapi”, a field guide to edible wild plants of the Dakota people.