Dandelions are either revered or reviled. It really depends on who you ask.
I grew up delighted at the site of the yellow blooms, often adding them to wildflower bouquets for my mom. My neighbors were not delighted at the site—though I never had to ask them. It was evident in their dandelion-less lawn.
As a child, I wondered how it was possible that our front lawn blossomed with small suns every summer, while theirs remained green. To put it simply, they had a different style of lawn care than we did. My parents mowed, and that was it.
A few years ago, a friend who’d moved to Vermont from a lifetime of city-living, drove by field after field in bloom, and asked, “What are those flowers everyone’s planted? They’re so beautiful!”
Her awe delighted me to no end. I carry it as proof that when you meet a plant without a preconceived judgement of it being a weed, your appreciation and relationship with that plant can blossom without restriction. The same goes for meeting people.
And anyway, appreciation feels better than judgement, and I’m more interested in joy than frustration. Dandelions are, too. That’s why they can grow even through cracks in a sidewalk. They understand how to make a hard thing soften.
Dandelions, Taraxacum officinale, offer medicine along with their bright flowers.
Long before its status was relegated to weed, Dandelion was regarded as a medicinal plant.
Taraxacum means “disorder remedy” and officinale refers to a plant with an established medicinal use in the 1800s and early 1900s.
Plant medicine has a way of popping up when our bodies may most need it, and dandelions are one of the first greens to return in the spring. Known as a diuretic and liver tonic, Dandelion can support the body during a spring cleanse.
From the roots to the blossoms, every part of Dandelion is edible.
Chop up the roots and roast them for a delicious tea.
Add the leaves raw to a mesclun mix.
Sauté the roots in olive oil, wilt the leaves and drizzle a bit of balsamic over them.
Fry up the flowers in batter for Dandelion Fritters.
Or just do what Waylon does and nibble on the blossoms as you walk outside.
One of my favorite ways to eat Dandelion is to make pesto. It’s a delicious addition to eggs and toast, noodles, or anything else you love pesto on (and I love pesto on most things!)
How To Make Dandelion Pesto
I first made Dandelion Pesto under the tutelage of Annie McCleary, while I was a student at Wisdom of the Herbs School. I’ve added the lemon juice and chevre recommendations here, but I have to thank Annie for first teaching me this recipe.
I’m a recipe-by-feel kind of person, and I apologize in advance to everyone who likes precise measurements. Take this as a challenge and opportunity to stretch your “feel” muscles, or as I like to call it, “recipe improv.”
- Dandelion leaves
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Sea Salt
- Garlic or Garlic Scapes
- Lemon Juice
- Nuts: pine nuts, almonds, or cashews
- Cheese: romano or chevre (chevre makes for deliciously creamy pesto)
Gather & Wash leaves: harvest green leaves anytime of year. Spring leaves will be less bitter than fall leaves.
In a food processor, add a few cloves of garlic, a few pinches of salt, and a splash of lemon juice. If you’re using nuts, add them now. Pulse until the garlic (and nuts, if using) are roughly chopped.
Add Dandelion leaves, and drizzle olive oil over top. Process until smooth. Adjust salt and oil to taste.
*Pesto was invented long before food processors. If you don’t have a food processor, finely chop all ingredients. You can further pesto-ize by grinding with a mortar and pestle.
Have you eaten Dandelions before? If so, what’s your favorite way to prepare them? If not, are you going to try them now? Let me know in a comment below!