Dandelions are unavoidable.
They appear in every back garden or spare patch of land and are extremely difficult to eradicate completely from your plot. Luckily for us, this is not always a bad thing, because every part of the dandelion plant is edible. It is even considered a delicacy in other countries, such as France- where they call it la dent-de-lion (Lion’s tooth) or sometimes le pissenlit (piss the bed- due to the plants diuretic qualities)
Dandelions are a great source of vitamins B, C and pro-vitamin A. They have been used medicinally in the past for stomach complaints and to help to dissipate gallstones as they are believed to improve kidney function.
Most importantly, this highly nutritious plant can be eaten in abundance for free. It is easily identifiable, so is a good starter plant for new foragers and children to collect.
How to eat Dandelions
All of the dandelion plant can be used for culinary purposes.
The thick roots can be roasted and ground (in a coffee grinder) and make a wonderful substitute for coffee, without the caffeine and loads of extra health benefits. These are best picked in the autumn.
Leaves can be used raw in salads and sandwiches or steamed or boiled like spinach. It’s best to harvest the smallest and tenderest leaves before the flowers start to bud as they will become more tough and bitter with age. Blanching the leaves by blocking out the light to the plant by placing a plant pot over them for a few days is also said to improve the bitter flavour.
Dandelion flowers (before they go to seed) can be made into dandelion wine, dandelion tea or can be sprinkled over salads uncooked to provide a vibrant yellow colour to contrast the green leaves.
Try this recipe for a syrup which can be used in baking or as a excellent pancake topping.
150g of washed dandelion flowers
200g of sugar
500 ml water
Juice of 1 lemon
Remove the dandelion petals from the stems and place in a saucepan with the water. Bring to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes.
Remove from the heat and let the petals seep in the water overnight.
Drain the dandelion water through a muslin cloth, collecting the liquid in another pan and discarding the petals once the liquid has been squeezed from them.
Return the liquid to the heat and add the sugar and lemon juice.
Simmer for 30 minutes until the syrup starts to thicken.
Pour the syrup into a sterilised jar and allow to cool.
The syrup can be stored in the fridge and should be eaten within a month.