Dandelion Greens – The Perfect Spring Survival Food

by Erich

With Spring finally here in New England, not only are we are enjoying a taste of warmer weather but the first shoots fresh, tasty, wild-edibles as well.

One of my favorite wild edibles during the early Spring happens to be the bane of all lawn owners: The Common Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale).

This article details how to identify and prepare this commonplace but excellent tasting and nutritious wild plant — knowledge that is an excellent addition to your survival info store.

How to Identify Dandelion

Dandelion is a perennial, herbaceous plant with long, lance-shaped leaves. The leaves are deeply toothed and resemble it’s namesake (dandelion comes from the Old French “Dent-de-lion” meaning lion’s tooth). Here are the key components of dandelion that you’ll want to look for:

  • deeply toothed, lance-shaped leaves (3 to 12 inches long)
  • leaves grow in a basal rosette
  • leaves are hairless
  • leaves and flower stalks exude a white milky sap when injured
  • yellow, composite flowers (1 to 2 inches wide)
  • flowers turn into round white seed heads that float in the wind

Dandelion Greens – How to Prepare Them

Instead of waging backyard chemical warfare on dandelions why not eat them instead?

The best time to gather and eat dandelion greens is in the early Spring before the flowers emerge. At this time of year they are only minimally bitter when eaten raw. When added to a stir fry (as I show you below) even finicky eaters will like them.

Here’s one of my favorite ways to prepare and eat dandelion greens:

You’ll notice the first shoots appear as a basal rosette
Gather around 3 cups of dandelion greens
With some olive oil, cook around 2 cups of onions until soft
Add the dandelion greens some chopped garlic and 2 tablespoons of soy sauce and cook for around 15 minutes
viola! some awesome tasting dandelion green stir fry!

Dandelion greens can also be added raw to salads and are excellent in sandwiches. If you eat the greens after the flowers emerge, they will be noticeably more bitter. However, you can still eat these. Just boil them in two changes of water (be sure to bring the water to a boil before adding the greens) and they’ll taste just fine.

Dandelion Greens Nutrition Information

Dandelion greens (leaves) are more nutritious than most anything you can purchase in your produce section.

They’re higher in beta carotene than carrots and the iron, vitamin K, and calcium content is far greater than spinach and brocolli. And for the price of pulling them out of your (and your neighbor’s lawn :)) you get vitamins B1, B2, B5, B6, B12, C, E, P (bioflavonoids) and D, biotin, mositol, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, and zinc.

Still think this is a bothersome weed? Think again.

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Comment by Blacksmith
2010-04-21 07:55:20

Nice article. Here in Canada dandelions are considered weeds and people spend millions of dollars a year trying to kill them off. If only they’d get their kids to pluck the weeds and the flowered heads (also very nutritious) there would be less complaining I think.
Oh well, one man’s weed is another man’s stir fry veggie!

Comment by Tactical Intelligence
2010-04-22 22:18:56

Very true Blacksmith. I love the flowerheads fried in batter – very tasty.

Comment by Twiggy
2011-10-09 05:39:21

Thanks for the information. I ordered Dandelion seeds recently, and I had no idea how nutritious the leaves are. I know the root is really good for your digestion, and great for your liver and gall bladder. I have a cup of tea infused with the roasted roots of Dandelion every night after dinner. It is a blend mixed with chicory root– delicious!!!
I thoroughly recommend it.

Comment by Tactical Intelligence
2011-10-12 02:41:13

Hey Twiggy,

Thanks for the tip on chicory. I’ve eaten the leaves but have not yet tried the dried roots. I’ve heard (like you mention) that roasted chicory and dandelion root make a delicious drink and coffee substitute.

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Comment by valerie
2012-04-15 09:22:19

Can you freeze dandelion leaves? I have loads of them in my yard and cant bare to mow them down.

2012-04-16 09:02:44

Hi Valerie,

Dandelions can absolutely be frozen. However when it comes time to using it, you’ll be limited to using it like frozen spinach (cooked, not raw in salads).

Comment by kobi
2013-01-12 09:16:27

hi fellows, just beware not to pick them where there is suspicion for herbicide use. you don’t want to accidentally poison yourself.

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2013-06-08 21:23:32

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Comment by Ryan
2013-07-01 02:18:16

I’ve been interested in this for a while now! Thanks for sharing! One thing I’d be more careful of however is cooking with olive oil. Olive oil is an unsaturated fat that is not heat stable – meaning when you heat it above 350* the oil can turn rancid and turns into free radicals. Just a fyi!

Comment by Lucie
2013-10-17 19:44:26

I blend store-bought or hand-picked dandelion leaves with some water and after I strain the mixture, I pour the juice into ice cube trays and freeze. I then enjoy a tall glass of lemon water with ice cubes and 2 cubes of dandelion juice. The water is extremely refreshing and for some reason, I barely taste the dandelion juice. It doesn’t have a bitter taste.

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