What do you eat when you are stuck at home, and don’t want to chance going to the store for fresh vegetables? In these times when many people are afraid to leave their homes there is one plant you can find across North America and many places in the world.
Spring is a season of renewal and new beginnings(and new dangers this year). All of the trees break out in bright green growth as the leaves unfurl from their winter sleep. Ahh the joys of spring, I can go on and on about it. It is by far my favorite time of the year. One of the great things about spring is if you like to forage, or try some of the bounty of nature you can get many delicious greens.
The easiest one for anyone to find is what many people consider an annoying weed. The common dandelion is the easiest of all edibles to find. The plant is native to Eurasia, but was brought by settlers as a hardy green to grow and eat. Dandelions are found on all of the worlds continents and have been gathered since prehistory, but the varieties cultivated for consumption are mainly native to Eurasia. Dandelions are a perennial plant, its leaves will grow back if any part of the tap root is left intact. To make leaves more palatable later in the later parts of the year they are often blanched to remove bitterness. The bitterness is mostly in the leaves late in the growing season when water starts getting in short supply. In the spring it is only mildly bitter and makes a great addition to salads. I am actually thinking of growing them on purpose. Every part of the plant can be used for something.
The flower petals, along with other ingredients, are used to make dandelion wine. This is very very strong, but also very good. I have seen where the flowers can also be used to make a dye, but I have not had a chance to try that. The ground, roasted roots can be used as a caffeine-free dandelion coffee. I add mine to roasted chicory root for a tasty coffee alternative. Dandelion was also traditionally used to make the traditional British soft drink dandelion and burdock, and is one of the ingredients of root beer. Also, Dandelions were once delicacies eaten by the Victorian gentry mostly in salads and sandwiches. Dandelions leaves contain abundant vitamins and minerals, especially vitamins A, C and K, and are good sources of calcium, potassium, iron and manganese.
Roasted dandelion root is a simple thing to make if you are interested in trying to do it yourself. First gather up a dozen or so plants with as much of the root attached as you can get. The two-year old plant will have a nice large root on it. Remember to save the leaves and any flowers for a nice salad or to add to a sandwich. Cut the individual roots into 1-inch sections and cover with water. White sap will leach from the roots causing the water to cloud. Agitate the roots with your hands to remove any remaining soil and to remove the sap. Pour off the water and repeat the process until the water is clear. If you skip this step you will have a much more bitter tea. Process the roots in a food processor until they are coarsely chopped. Spread a 1/2-inch layer of chopped dandelion roots on a cookie sheet, and set the oven at 250 degrees, leaving the oven door open a crack to allow moisture to evaporate. Roast the dandelion roots for 2 hours or until the roots are the color of coffee grounds. Stir the dandelion roots every 15 to 20 minutes to allow them to dry evenly. Remove from the oven when the roots are the color of ground coffee. Allow to cool and store in glass jars. You can further grind them with a coffee grinder, but if you don’t have one, that’s okay too, as they can be used as is.
Below are some great resource guides if you are interested in more on foraging for weeds and other edibles.
- Pacific Northwest Foraging: 120 Wild and Flavorful Edibles from Alaska Blueberries to Wild Hazelnuts (Regional Foraging Series)
- The Forager’s Harvest: A Guide to Identifying, Harvesting, and Preparing Edible Wild Plants
- Backyard Foraging: 65 Familiar Plants You Didn’t Know You Could Eat
Shane’s outdoor fun is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com