Before you grab your weed-killing tool of choice and get to work eradicating the dandelions from your garden, you may want to continue reading. Dandelion is actually an incredibly healthy edible plant with several surprising benefits. Here are our favorite and how you can enjoy this yellow weed today.
Dandelion nutritional facts
This weed is loaded with essential vitamins and minerals such as beta-carotene (which turns into vitamin V), vitamin B, vitamin C, vitamin D, potassium, iron, calcium, fiber, magnesium, zinc, and phosphorous.
How dandelion benefits your immune system
In a 2014 study, dandelion extract was shown to have an incredible antiviral effect that actually helped limit the growth of hepatitis B in human and animal cells. These findings are notable because they bring validity to something that herbalists and naturopaths have been saying for years. Dandelion is an excellent way to fend off a cold, infection, or virus, and could even have potent antibacterial benefits. In these uncertain times, when you have plenty of dandelion growing in your yard, and a strong immune system is more important than ever, it may be a good time to learn to prepare this undercover health superstar.
Other benefits of dandelion
Fight inflammation: Studies have shown that dandelion could have a potent anti-inflammatory effect, especially in regards to chronic inflammation that can harm the body.
May fight cancer: Though more research is needed to confirm these effects, certain groundbreaking studies have suggested that dandelion could reduce the growth of cancerous cells in human tissue.
Support healthy digestion: One of the famous historical uses of dandelion is its ability to aid in healthy digestion, reduce constipation, and aid intestinal movement. This is likely due to its high fiber content—specifically, the prebiotic fiber known as inulin.
How to find harvest dandelion
As with any foraging, it is important to find dandelion somewhere that hasn’t been exposed to pesticides or chemicals. Since you are going to eat it, you don’t want to take any chances that it may be toxic. Try to find a remote meadow or field that isn’t used for agriculture or near a neighborhood. Many parks and community areas use harmful weed killers to target dandelions, so you’ll want to find it fairly far from civilization. Just make sure you aren’t foraging on private land.
If you have difficulty finding a good source of clean, nontoxic dandelion, grab a few of the dandelion heads that have gone to seed and plant your own in a raised bed or pot. Keep in mind, if you intentionally plant dandelions, you will want to harvest them before they go to seed to avoid spread to your garden.
When you do find or grow dandelion, grab the base of the weed and pull straight up. You’ll usually get all of the weed and some of the roots. If you want to make sure you get the roots, use a small spade to dig it out of the ground.
How to eat dandelion:
Believe it or not, dandelion is 100% edible. From the roots to the flower, this yellow and green weed is totally safe and can be eaten straight from the garden. Here are our favorite ways to eat dandelion to reap the amazing health benefits:
Eat it raw
Rinse off the leaves and enjoy dandelion in your salads with toppings and a light, vinegarette dressing. Keep in mind, the young, small weeds are most tender and least bitter, so if you’re not a fan of the taste of more mature greens, harvest earlier in the season.
Add it to soup
Dandelion flowers make an excellent garnish for soup, while the greens can be added just like you would add kale or spinach. Cooking them down slightly will help take off some of the edge and may make them more palatable.
Use in stir-fries
Though it may not be your first instinct to add dandelion to your stir fry, it is actually an excellent way to enjoy this common backyard health weed. Combine with some sauteed veggies, a protein such as chicken, and soy sauce and serve over rice.
Make a tea
Dandelion tea made from dried roots or leaves is an easy way to reap the health benefits. Simply dry the plant, break it into pieces, and store it in an airtight jar until you are ready to use. Add about 2 tablespoons to an 8 oz glass of water and let steep for about 5-7 minutes before drinking. Use a spoonful of honey to give it a little more flavor and add a hint of sweetness.
You can buy dandelion extract in tincture, supplement, or tea form, but be sure that you are buying a product that is from a reputable source without any added or filler ingredients.
-Susan Patterson, CBHC and Master Gardener