Three Things to Do With Dandelion

Becky Lerner digging dandelions. Photo by Joshua McCollough/Phytophoto.com

Dandelion, Taraxacum officinale, is an edible plant rich in vitamins A, B, C, E and also iron, potassium and even protein. It is also a medicinal herb that is particularly wonderful for your liver. Here are three things you can do with dandelion (there are many more, of course):

1) Tincture the roots and leaves to make an effective diuretic that doubles as a detoxifying cleanser for the liver, kidneys and blood. Recipe: One part plants to two parts liquid (45% alcohol, which you can make with Everclear or another strong liquor diluted with water). Then leave the extract to cure in a dark cabinet for 4-6 weeks. Alternatively, you could make a tea of the same parts to the same effect.

Image by Joshua McCollough

2) Wash and chop the roots, then roast them in your oven at 350 degrees until your kitchen smells like chocolate chip cookies. Then grind them in a coffee grinder or mash them by hand with a mortar and pestle and brew in a coffee maker for a tasty, caffeine-free alternative to the standard morning joe. Or, instead of brewing them, add the root powder to a cookie-baking project for a hearty, wild twist.

3) Be like NYC forager Steve Brill and stir fry the young leaves in a coconut curry sauce for a delicious result. I find the raw leaves a little too bitter, but some people enjoy them fresh in salads as well.

Dandelion is easy to identify, but people sometimes confuse it with another weed called Cat’s Ear, Hypochaeris radicata. Here is how to avoid a mixup: dandelion leaves are smooth and not fuzzy, and it has just one stem per flower (as opposed to a branching stem with several blossoms).

Dandelion is an incredible source of food and medicine. Share this post with your friends and family and help vindicate the most-villified weed in existence. 

Then explore many more wild plants on the Search Plants! page.

17 thoughts on “Three Things to Do With Dandelion

  1. Can you give me more information on your tincturing process? I would like to try it, but would be concerned with “winging it.”

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  5. Love your site! Thanks for giving me some uses for dandelions- they are everywhere, and it is SO much easier to just let them grow than it is to pull them.

  6. btw. raw young dandelion leaves are less bitter if you leave the midrib unharvested. Just lay three fingers as triangle in the bottom of the leaf and pull gently without a squeeze – and you get the blades without a midrib and that’s great for salads… then another delicacy to eat raw: the unmature buds while still mildly green. Those are formed in the crown of the root as circular layers with one big bud on the top (darker green in colour). Pick that big one and you’ll find a circle of mildly green unmature ones beneath (for good harvest it’s better to have big “clumpy” dandelion with lot of leaves, which also correlates with bigger root) … harvest those and there is still a younger circle of buds maturing beneath … and the more mature dark green buds are still delicacy if steamed (and pickled/marinated) … a few (2-5) flowering stems can also be eaten raw in blended soups or salad dressings, and if those taste too bitter for you – it’s still fun to pick tall ones for buzzers and play like a bumblebee: split the narrow end (an inch is enough), put split part into your mouth and blow for a buzz (ok, maybe one needs to try few times to figure it out how-to…) – and one should not forget the pollen from new bloom, which really gives a nutritious boost for all kinds of brews (alcoholic or non-alcoholic)… and something else too about the roots, in early spring before the flow of white sap starts in the roots they can be grated and dried to be eaten whenever something sweet is needed… here in finland by the time of acorn harvest (late in the autumn) the carrot size roots are delicacy i like to eat raw (the flow of white sap is by that time stanched) – even though generally people find them palatable if baked … oh, oh – being still knee-deep in snow just can’t wait the season to start here around mid-april onwards…

  7. And for dogs….

    I like to blender up the whole fresh plant (roots included), and freeze little dandelion cookies by putting small spoonfuls of the mash on a cookie sheet (but instead of the oven it goes in the freezer). Then I bag them up and store them frozen, doling them into my dog’s dinner one at a time.

    The health benefits are the same as for us. It’s an easy spring liver strengthener for dogs.

    • Margaret,

      Thank you so much for weighing in! That’s fascinating to know. I do have a pup and will try it for her.

      • I should add that my dog eats raw food that’s meaty and moist, so that ground up dandelion mixes in well with the food and her other supplements.

        Dogs that eat dry food might not find it enticing to nose around some pulverized weeds tossed amongst dry nuggets.

        If you don’t feed fresh food I’d suggest mixing the greens with something moist like cottage cheese or apple sauce (or meat of course, before mixing it in with their food.

    • You can distinguish between the two because chicory leaves have a line of hairs on the underside, whereas dandelion is smooth.

      But you’re right, doesn’t matter. Both are wonderful.

  8. Yes cat’s ear is perfectly edible, though I think there’s still good reason to learn how to tell them apart. Practically speaking there’s a difference in the texture, which makes it an unlikely choice for a raw green, and because they are different species, the research is not clear on whether cat’s ear has a similar nutritional profile to dandelion (according to botanist John Kallas in his book “Edible Wild Plants”).

    I am not aware of research showing that cat’s ear works the same way as dandelion medicinally, though that doesn’t mean it doesn’t — some herbalists say it may work like a similar yet less potent version of dandelion.

    Also, some people do claim cat’s ear causes stomach upset. It seems some people claim that about every wild plant, though, so I agree with you that it does not necessarily need to be a major deterrent.

  9. All parts of cat’s ear are edible, too, so it doesn’t matter too much if you get mixed up. I prefer cat’s ear leaves to dandelions for salad, they have a much milder flavor.

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