Sunday, April 21, 2013

Foraging: Dandelions

Disclaimer:  The following post is about gathering and eating wild foods.  Do not eat anything that you can't positively identify.  Look it up for yourself and make sure to positively identify anything that you find.  Failure to do so can make you very sick, unto the point of death.  

Shameful Plug:  Yes, from time to time I plug my business.  Here is a link to our first app.
Android App: Edible Wild Plant Guide
Kindle App: Edible Wild Plant Guide
It's only $.99 get it while its hot.  I plan on adding more plants as the year goes by and they come in season.  It's a great way to start identifying wild plants

One of the essential skills that all renaissance man is the ability to feed himself.  This week I want to talk about dandelions.  All parts of a dandelion are edible. And I have to admit, the jelly made from it is delicious.

Flowers: I'm sure most everybody has seen a dandelion or one of it's look a likes.  The flower is yellow in color, and looks like a mini sun. They grow on a stalk close to the ground.  This is how to tell a true dandelion from it's neighbors.  The flower will always be close to the ground on a stalk all by itself.  As the flower gets pollinated, the stalk will grow seemingly over night, and turn into a giant puffball of seeds.  I know as kids we used to blow them and make wishes.  The flowers are edible raw, can be cooked, added to many dishes to add color, and of course, my favorite way is to make jelly.  Since I don't have an original recipe, I will leave it up to the user to search the web for a recipe that seems easy to use.  I did, and they are pretty simple to make.  One thing I am planning on trying next year is to make wine out of them.  

Dandelion Flower
Leaves: The leaves are saw shaped or if you prefer, they look like teeth.  Hence the common name origin, dandelion which is a corruption of the French dent de lion, or tooth of the lion.  The leaves can be used raw as a bitter ingredient in salads, they can be sautéed with a little olive oil, they can be added as a flavor agent to many other dishes.  Everything I've read mentions how bitter they are, but I've never experience this myself.  Maybe I've picked them while they were still young and fresh, or maybe my soil just doesn't contain the right ingredients to make them bitter.  Any way, I like them, I think they taste pretty much like a lettuce.   
 Roots: There's not a lot to say about the roots.  If you can identify the flower and the leaves, then you have a dandelion root.  They grow a large tap-root.  I've never done anything with the roots (yet).  You can dig them up, wash them well, and roast them as a coffee substitute.  (I plan on doing this later, but the kids love dandelion jelly, and want me to make some more, so I'm leaving my "weeds" to keep flowering as long as possible).  You can also sautée them, boil them and use them as a potato substitute, or add them to some sort of stew or casserole.

As you can see the dandelion is a great food for survival, but can also find it's way as a great addition to your kitchen table.  They are packed full of nutrients, and lets face it, they are dead easy to grow.  So the next time you're in the backyard, don't pull out the weed killer, but look at it as an easy to gather food.