I've blogged before about foraging for dandelions, eating their leaves ("dandelion greens"), and using their roots as a medicinal tea (sometimes called a substitute for coffee). Today, however, I want to focus on the weed's sunny yellow petals.
Nutritional Information on Dandelion Flowers
Uncovering nutritional information about dandelion flowers is much more difficult than digging up the goods on dandelion roots and leaves (which are both highly nutritious). However, I did find a couple of sources claiming the flowers are a superb source of lecithin - which is believed to maintain brain function and may slow or stop Alzheimer's disease. Lecithin is also supposed to be good for the liver.
Another source says dandelion flowers are a good source of vitamins A, B, and C, beta-carotene, iron, zinc, and potassium.
And if you can't stand the bitterness in dandelion roots or leaves, take note: The flowers are mildly sweet. One caution, however; if you have allergies to ragweed, marigold, mums, daisies, or yarrow, you might be allergic to dandelion flowers, too.
Harvesting Dandelion Flowers
First, choose only dandelions you are certain haven't been sprayed with chemicals. Road side or park dandelions are not recommended. Instead, choose weeds from your own yard, or from a wilderness area.
To harvest, simply pick off the flowers. Wash in a colander under cold, running water. I recommend letting the flowers dry a bit before you attempt to remove the petals, or you'll find the petals stick to your fingers. When the flowers are dry, remove as much of the green parts as possible without making the flowers fall apart. Use as soon as possible.
NOTE: Most sources stress that when using dandelion flowers, all the green parts must be removed. I have found that it doesn't matter a bit if some green pieces get mixed in - and as I explain below, sometimes the green parts actually improve the recipe.
How to Eat Dandelion Flowers: Dandelion Flower Tea Recipe
Tea is a popular way to get the benefits of dandelion flowers. Pluck the petals from 8 to 10 flowers and pack them into a tea ball. Place the tea ball in a cup and pour boiling water over it. Steep for about 10 - 15 minutes. Serve hot or cold.
I find this tea almost tasteless, which is probably why many people add fresh lemon or lime juice to it. A better solution, I think, is to leave the green parts attached to the petals, following all the other directions given above. This produces a mild tea with a pleasant earthy flavor.
You can also make the tea with dehydrated dandelion flowers. (Dehydrate flowers, with green parts in tact, on 95 degrees F. until completely dry. You may find that some of the flowers go to seed while in the dehydrator; discard those.) Follow the same procedure but use about 6 to 8 dehydrated dandelion flowers. If you prefer the tea without the green parts of the flower, I find it best to store dehydrated flowers with their green parts intact; you can remove the petals as you need them for tea or other recipes.
Frying the flowers is another popular way to consume them. Mix together about 2 tablespoons of cornmeal, seasoned with salt and pepper, plus a pinch of oregano and thyme. Beat an egg and dip the flowers, one at a time, in it. Then roll the flowers in the cornmeal mixture. Fry in a pan with a little heated olive oil in it.
You might also try dandelion wine (something I haven't tried yet, but hear is good; there's also pink dandelion wine), dandelion flower fritters, dandelion flower syrup, or dandelion flower jelly (see my tutorial here). Some people just put the raw flowers or petals into salads, too.
But if you want the most easy, tasty way to try dandelion flowers, I recommend adding them to cookies. Here's my recipe.
Did you know you can turn dandelion leaves, flowers, buds, stems, and roots into tasty and healthy treats? Learn more about eating and cooking with dandelions in my #1 Amazon Bestselling paperback or ebook, The Ultimate Dandelion Cookbook.
For more information about harvesting and using dandelions, see these posts:
"Ah Sweet...Dandelions?" (including a recipe for cooking dandelion leaves)
How to Make Dandelion Tea (from the roots of the plant)
Making Dandelion Jelly
Teaching Children to Forage (with dandelion cookie recipe)
How to Preserve Dandelion Greens
Dandelion Flower Fritters
Dandelion Leaf Noodles
How to Make Dandelion Wine
Dandelion Root Medicine: Where to Find It, How & Why to Use It
Dandelion Leaf Green Smoothie
Cautions: According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, very rarely, people have reactions to dandelion. If you're allergic to "ragweed, chrysanthemums, marigold, chamomile, yarrow, daisies, or iodine, you should avoid dandelion. In some people, dandelion can cause increased stomach acid and heartburn. It may also irritate the skin. People with kidney problems, gallbladder problems, or gallstones should consult their doctors before eating dandelion." Dandelion is a diuretic, which means it may also make other medications less effective. To learn more about this, visit the University of Maryland Medical Center website.
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