Dandelions have a yin and yang relationship with humans. Some consider them a dreaded obnoxious weed to be destroyed at all costs, while others see them as an important food, as well as a herb with medicinal uses.
Dandelions grow just about everywhere. Their yellow flower heads announce the arrival of spring and they continue blooming into fall.
In Germany, entire mountaintops are planted with dandelions in order to use their flowers to make wine. Amateur dandelion wine making is also popular, with recipes shared on the Internet, in cookbooks, and at wine festivals.
For centuries, dandelion plants have been sought out medicinally by traditional Chinese medicine physicians and Native Americans healers, and are used in many herbal traditions. Dandelions are commonly used as a spring tonic for the liver.
Different parts of the plant can be used medicinally for many ailments — as a diuretic; to cleanse the digestive tract; to treat liver, kidneys, skin, gallbladder, and stomach problems; to reduce breast inflammation or treat a lack of milk flow during lactation; for eye problems; and for diabetes and diarrhea, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center.
A herbalist friend introduced me to fried fresh dandelion flower heads, as well as putting newly sprouted dandelion leaves in salads. The flowers and leaves are packed with vitamins and minerals, and therefore good for you.
When picking dandelions, avoid areas that have been chemically treated or an area with a lot of dog traffic. The flower heads need to be slightly damp to have the flour stick, but not too wet or the flour will clump.
Sautéed fresh dandelion flowers
You will need about 5-10 flower heads per person, flour, your favorite spices, and salt and pepper.
Prepare dandelions by cutting the newly opened flower heads from the stem. The stems should be soft, not hard and hollow. Fill the sink with cold water and place the flower heads in water to clean and remove any bugs or dirt. Remove the heads from the water, place on a towel and pat dry. Continue to air dry for about 30 minutes.
Put the flour, spices, salt, and pepper into a small paper bag or a large sealable plastic bag and shake to mix well. Add the dandelion flower heads. Shake the bag until the heads are well covered with the mixture. Pre-heat a non-stick frying pan or iron skillet over medium heat. Try to use a light oil, and if you have almond flour on hand, use it as it enhances the flavor. The flower heads can also be fried slowly with more oil rather than a quick sauté.
Once hot, add cooking oil and spread it evenly in the bottom of the pan. Take the flower heads out of the bag and place them face down in the pan. Use a spatula to press the heads down and then to turn them over to cook both sides. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes until the outer part turns dark green and the flour mixture toasted brown.
Written by Cat Rooney