Common dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) is widespread, easily identified, incredibly nutritious, and vehemently hated by many gardeners. It is one of the first flowers of spring, and the last flowers of autumn, good news for bees. There are several species here in the US, all edible in the same manner. All parts of the plant will emit a milky sap when broken.
The green leaves grow from a basal rosette, and are 3-12 inches long, 1/2-2 inches wide, and are deeply toothed. The leaves are best gathered in the early spring before the flowers appear, or after a frost. They may have some bitter characteristics that can be lightly boiled out. The greens can be eaten raw in salads, or steamed or sautéed into just about any dish. They work well in quiches or soups, or even as a stir-fry vegetable. Raw greens contain amazing amounts of Vitamin A, acscorbic acid, beta-carotene and thiamin. The greens also contain plant based calcium, potassium, and iron.
The yellow, composite flower grows on a hollow stalk 2-18 inches tall. I think the flowers are "smart" and know exactly how tall to grow--just under your lawnmower's blades' height! The flower will mature into the familiar white, poofy seedhead, wonderful for kids to blow around your yard. The flowers are also edible pulled apart in salads, and Gillian will often have a dandelion flower in her mouth while waiting for the bus. They can be fried in batter as fritters, pickled whole, and made into a dandelion wine.
The thick, brittle branching taproot grows up to 10 inches long. It is nearly impossible to get the whole root out at once, and the remaining bits will grow a new plant. Scrape the beige skin off the root and chop the root to add to soups like carrots or parsnips. The root can also be oven dried and ground to be used as a coffee extender like chickory.
Robert made some pickles, and we spent a long time separating yellow petals from the green heads for a small batch of wine. More greens went into a soup, some sautéed with ramps, some more frozen. We pick in a large area where I was inspired to hide a letterbox--Foraging Dandelion! The whole area was underwater during the spring storms this year, and some areas were a bit washed out, but those dandelions came back and blanketed the grass with sunny yellow blooms.
Dandelion Potato Soup makes 6 servings
4 cloves garlic
2 starchy potatoes, peeled and diced
6 c. vegetable broth
1 c. chopped ramps greens and stems
1 c. dandelion greens, blanched and chopped
1/2 c. dandelion flowers, blanched
salt and pepper
6 T sour cream
1. Sautée garlic in olive oil until softened, add diced potato and cook until lightly browned.
2. Pour in the vegetable broth, and bring up to a boil. Turn to a simmer for 5 minutes.
3. Add the ramps greens, dandelion greens and dandelion flowers. Simmer another 10 minutes, until the potatoes have mostly desintegrated. Season with salt and pepper.
4. Serve with a dollop of sour cream stirred into each bowl for a super "tang".
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