Dandelions have a yin and yang relationship with humans. Some consider them a dreaded obnoxious weed to be destroyed at all costs, while others see them as an important food as well as an herb with medicinal uses.
Dandelions grow just about everywhere. Their yellow flower heads announce the arrival of spring and continue blooming into fall.
In Germany, entire mountaintops are planted with dandelions in order to use their flowers to make wine. Amateur dandelion wine making is also popular, with recipes shared on the Internet, in cookbooks, and at wine festivals.
For centuries, dandelion plants have been sought out medicinally by traditional Chinese medicine physicians and Native Americans healers, and are used in many herbal traditions. Dandelions are commonly used as a spring tonic for the liver.
Different parts of the plant can be used medicinally for many ailments: as a diuretic; to cleanse the digestive tract; to treat liver, kidneys, skin, gallbladder, and stomach problems; to reduce breast inflammation or treat a lack of milk flow during lactation; for eye problems; and for diabetes and diarrhea, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center.
An herbalist friend introduced me to fried fresh dandelion flower heads, as well as putting newly sprouted dandelion leaves in salads. The flowers and leaves are packed with vitamins and minerals, and therefore good for you.
As for eating dandelion leaves, they need to be just sprouting (very small) or they are too bitter. It is not recommended to eat the flower petals, but the flower head itself is a treat sautéed in a frying pan.
Sautéed Fresh Dandelion Flowers
You will need about 5-10 flower heads per person
375 ml to 500 ml (1 1/2 to 2 cups) prepared freshly cut dandelion flower
125 ml (1/2 cup) flour of choice such as white, wheat, or almond
5 ml (1 tsp) of spices of your choice such as blackened seasoning for meat and fish (optional)
Salt and pepper
5 to 10 ml (1 to 2 tsp) oil
Prepare dandelions by cutting the newly opened flower heads from the stem. The stems should be soft not hard and hollow. Fill the sink with cold water and place the flower heads in water to clean and remove any bugs. Remove the heads from the water, place on a towel and pat dry. Allow to continue to air dry for about 30 minutes.
Put the flour, spices, salt, and pepper into a small paper bag or a large sealable plastic bag and shake to mix well. Add the dandelion flower heads. Shake the bag until the heads are well covered with the mixture.
Pre-heat a non-stick frying pan or iron skillet on medium heat. Once hot add the oil and spread it evenly in the bottom of the pan. Take the flower heads out of the bag and place them face down in the pan. Use a spatula to press the heads down and then to turn them over to cook both sides. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes until the green outer part turns dark green and the flour mixture toasted brown.
Special Tips: When picking dandelions avoid areas that have been chemically treated or an area with a lot of dog traffic. The flower heads need to be slightly damp to have the flour stick but not too wet or the flour will clump. Use a light oil, and if you have almond flour on hand it enhances the flavour. The flower heads can also be fried slowly with more oil rather than a quick sauté.