Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)

This plant has many special talents,  cold endurance is just one of them. I think it  is one of the most underrated plants, which still is often regarded as nothing more than persistent weed. For me dandelion is an outstanding symbol of wealth! The wealth of nutritional and healing powers, the wealth of edible parts from the root through the buds and leaves to flowers, a wealth of applications: leaves and roots as a vegetable, roasted roots as coffee, marinated buds as capers, flowers for marmalade, syrups, wines … And enormous productivity, great expansion strategy and huge range of occurrences. A Master To Learn From.

small dandelions, collected in January

HOW TO RECOGNIZE

In winter, look for leaf rosettes, the leaves have characteristic indents, like … cloves, in French ‘dent de lion’ – lion’s teeth, hence the English ‘dandelion’

DON’T MISTAKE WITH …

Good news here, plants most similar to dandelions such as sow-thitle, hawksbeard, cat’s ear, are also edible.

WHAT I COLLECT

Winter:

  • leaves – I collect whole leaf rosettes, depending on the weather conditions they will be small or more lush. At this time of year, every little leaf is a treasure.
  • Roots – Winter Roots have a lovely sweet and grounding flavor with just a bit of bitterness in the background. The first year plants are the tastiest, the roots of older plants will be bigger, but can be stringy. I use the roots as an addition to vegetable soup, or on its own as an appetizer. They taste fantastic when briefly fried with ginger, sprinkled with soy sauce and sesame oil.

Spring:

  • young leaves – best before the plant blooms, buds with stems, flowers

Summer:

  • roots for drying and roasting for dandelion coffee, leaves as an addition to other milder-tasting plants.

NUTRITIONAL VALUE AND EFFECT

Dandelion leaves are rich in potassium, iron and have a record amount of vitamin A and K. The roots are rich in carbohydrates, including inulin which has a prebiotic effect. Inulin is gold for nourishing the gut microbiota, but if you eat too much it can cause bloating and  gas. When used as a vegetable, dandelion supports liver function, digestion and the maintenance of proper blood sugar levels.

bowl of cooked dandelion greens

RECIPES: Cooked dandelion winter leaves

I collect whole rosettes by cutting them with a knife close to the ground. I clean thoroughly, remove wilted leaves, and rinse several times to remove dirt particles. I put clean dandelion rosettes into boiling water and cook for about 5 minutes or until the stems are tender, Strain and place in serving dish. I add olive oil or cold-pressed rape seed oil, few drops of lemon juice, and salt and pepper on top. It also tastes great with mustard vinaigrette or shio koji dressing.