How I Don’t Eat Dandelions

I’ve been meaning to participate in Butter‘s Wild Things Roundup ever since I discovered her blog last fall, but the themes have never quite coincided with my cooking. Until now! This month’s theme is dandelions.

My big dandelion experiment for this year is the mead. But in honor of the roundup I thought I’d do a worth it / not worth it rundown of past results. The whole dandelion is edible and I’ve tried everything but the seeds. The emerging theme is that dandelions are great as part of a larger whole, but I’m not so into them as a stand-alone dish.

bedraggled dandelion blossom with raindrops

Leaves

I am picky about my dandelion greens and only eat the youngest, most tender babies. If they’ve sprouted underneath a carelessly overturned bucket and have grown without seeing much of the sun that’s even better – the cosseted veal of dandelions!

Even when I find a bunch of dandelion veal, though, I prefer it mixed with other greens, in a salad or a braising mix.

Petals

If you’re not a morning person, dandelion petals are kind of a hassle. If you’re up before the flowers have fully opened you can pretty much just grab the tip of the flower and twist, but if you wait until midday, it takes 2-3 careful pinches per blossom to get it all. And the petals are not strongly flavored, so you have to gather a lot.

I am not a morning person.

I made an irish soda bread once using more or less the ratio of petals:flour in Langdon Cook’s dandy bread, and it was a perfectly fine bread, but if you didn’t see the yellow bits you would never know it had dandelions in it. Verdict: Not worth it.

Then of course there’s this year’s dandelion mead, currently blurping away in its primary fermenter. It took me a couple of hours to pick the requisite 2 quarts of petals (actually not that far off from Langdon’s guideline of 15 minutes for a cup) and I worry that the dandelion flavor will be overwhelmed by the honey. Hours spent in the sun on the first warm day of spring are never wasted, but I’m not sure if I’ll feel a compulsion to repeat the experiment next year when I won’t even have the final results from this batch yet.

Whole Blossoms

I know some people like to make tempura or fritters from these, but as far as I’m concerned, that’s a famine food. They might be abundant and easy to harvest, but they’re also bitter and yucky.

Roots

Here’s a foraging pro tip: If you read that something used to be considered a coffee substitute, that’s a euphemism for “it’s too bitter to drink unless you have used mind-altering substances to fuck up your brain’s taste/reward associations and you’re crazy from caffeine withdrawal”.

But after giving up on dandelion root infusions as a stand-alone drink, I soaked some of the leftovers in vodka and made myself some cocktail bitters with it. Which have been great! So dandelion roots are entering my lexicon as a minor balancing component to other flavors.

Comments

  1. Emma wrote:

    Cocktail bitters are really in at the moment, so it’s great to see you can make them out of foraged ingredients :)

  2. Maria wrote:

    Bitters-making is so much fun! And has gotten me interested in a much wider range of weird-tasting plants.

    Haven’t actually foraged for gentian root yet (one of the dominant bittering ingredients in a lot of commercial bitters) but it’s supposed to be common enough in the right places.

  3. Lab Lemming wrote:

    Do dandelions bioaccumulate much scary urban stuff?

  4. Maria wrote:

    The same as any kale in a backyard garden, I imagine. I don’t eat the ones that grow right up against my house on account of the lead paint.

  5. Erica wrote:

    Omg fun read, and the picture is classic. I think, just like the situation with the “mushrooms of failure,” we folks in drier parts can’t afford to be very choosy.

  6. Maria wrote:

    I might also just be pickier and lazier than you are! Learning to enjoy more bitter flavors has been a long gradual process for me; I still pretty much stick with the sweeter varieties of kale at the market, not-so-hoppy beers, etc.

  7. Rockhound Times wrote:

    I generally hate bitter things too, but I do have a soft spot for dandelion flower fritters – I like to make them with an egg, some yellow cornmeal, and salt.

    I haven’t had enough flowers to make them for a while though. I wonder if the landlord would be OK with me digging up the lawn to plant more dandelions?

  8. Christine wrote:

    I just read this page, and I have to
    Say that, the idea of eating the flowers throws
    Me for a loop.

    I’ve never eaten a dandelion flower raw off the lawn or cooked, the very idea of taking them off the lawn and into
    The mouth is sick.

    I had a store bought chamomile tea one day that
    Had some dandelion, as well as many other things. That is ok, but I can’t tell if it
    Was the root, flower or greens

    I did consume dandelion in some form, but
    Other than that, me eating the plant itself.

    Forget it, not happening, too sick tofu thought.

  9. erika wrote:

    Actually sauteed dandelion greens with onion and garlic for lunch today. Was a little more bitter than most greens I enjoy but structurally similar to collards. I decided I like them but they’ll have to be something I put into rotation…. maybe when I’m bored of other things.

  10. erika wrote:

    That was supposed to read texturally not structurally.

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