How to Harvest and Use Wild Dandelion Greens

Cleaning Heaps of Dandelions

Cleaning Dandelions Requires Plenty of Water

The dandelions are coming! The dandelions are coming!

Actually, the first dandelions of the season have arrived. They’re still few and far between, but I found enough to make a salad.

Dandelions are at their best in early spring, when their flavor is sweet and mild. As flower buds develop and blossom, dandelion greens can become too bitter to eat. In Alaska, dandelions reseed themselves more than once (at least in my yard), and new plants can be harvested throughout the summer, so long as the leaves are small and flower buds are either not present or just forming at the base of the leaves.

Just Harvested Dandelion Greens

Just Harvested Dandelion Greens

To harvest dandelions, slip a knife into the dirt and cut dandelion root just under the basel rosette. Pop it out of the ground and shake off any dirt or debris clinging to the plant.

Although not necessary, dandelions are easiest to clean if you let them soak overnight in a sink full of cold water. This helps soften dried-on dirt which, depending on when and where you gathered the dandelions, can be an issue. Cut off leaves just above the the basal rosette and any flower buds. Wash again in sink of cold water with 1/2 cup white vinegar mixed in; a vinegar wash kills bacteria lingering on vegetables. Give the greens one final rinse in cold, clear water. Dry leaves in salad spinner or with paper towels; the dandelion greens are now ready to use.

Rules for Gathering Wild Plants

Spring wild greens season is one of my favorite times of year. In season, I pick large quantities of my favorite greens (such as nettles, devil’s club, and dandelions), blanch for 1 minute in salted boiling water, and freeze in zip-lock bags for winter use. To harvest high quality greens in a responsible manner, follow these rules:

  1. Some plants can be confused with inedible or poisonous look-alikes. Be sure you know what you’ve harvested before eating any wild plant. Follow the wise adage: “When in doubt, throw it out!” There are many excellent field guides to edible plants. Consult one or more that focuses on the plants of your region before going on foraging expeditions.
  2. Don’t gather endangered species or over-harvest a single species in one location.  Gather only what you need.
  3. Don’t break laws by trespassing on private property or in public areas where foraging is prohibited. In Alaska, most state and federal parks allow foraging of mushrooms, bark, ferns, moss, berries, cones, herbs, roots, and wildflowers for personal and subsistence harvest. The laws governing city parks vary from city to city; check local regulations before foraging in city parks.
  4. Even though a plant is edible, its flavor may not be worth the effort of harvesting or preparing it, particularly when there are so many other easily harvested plants around. Chickweed is an example of an edible plant that, for me, isn’t worth the effort to clean it. Before gathering a large amount of a plant that is new to you, cook and taste a small bit to make sure it appeals to your palate.
  5. Be careful about gathering wild plants in areas that’ve been sprayed with pesticides, or in areas where you don’t know if spraying has occurred. I don’t gather wild plants within 75 feet of a main road because dirt and pollution from traffic and exhaust fumes can contaminate the plants. I also avoid gathering wild plants in areas where animal waste is likely to be found.
  6. No matter where I gather wild greens, I meticulously wash them before using. After an initial cleaning to remove loose dirt, wash wild greens in cold water with 1/2 cup of vinegar mixed in, and then in cold, clear water.

Now that you know the rules, head outside and see what you can find. A list of Alaska’s most desirable wild edible is found here.

UPDATE 1: My post on how to harvest and use Devil’s Club is here.

UPDATE 2: My post on how to harvest and use Fireweed is here.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

More Dandelion Recipes from Laurie Constantino:

 

Dandelion Salad with Bacon & Garlic Croutons

Dandelion, Edamame & Strawberry Salad

Dandelion, Grilled Peach & Blue Cheese Salad

Dandelion, Apple & Hazelnut Salad

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Pile o' Dandelions

Pile o' Dandelions

Be sure to check out the recipes mentioned in this post:

 

24 Responses to How to Harvest and Use Wild Dandelion Greens

  1. we have lots of dandies, but the leaves are very thin and the center flesh is thick. we want to use them up before fertilising our yard. your tips are great.

  2. Mansi Desai says:

    oh, that looks pretty! I loved the writeup Laurie, my entry is on the way:) thanks for the great tips!

  3. Peter G says:

    What a wonderful write up on all the different wild plants out there Laurie. My childhood memories consist of a carload of Greek mothers all going to the outer bush areas and looking for wild “horta”! The bounties they would return with! I absolutely love carpaccio and it looks great with the dandelions. (I’l make sure I get my entry in..I haven’t participated before)

  4. We have dandelions here but didn’t realize we could eat them… hhmmm…

    gay

  5. The salad looks just glorious. I love the tip about blanching the wild greens and freezing them. I never thought of doing that.

  6. JennDZ - The Leftover Queen says:

    That looks like a gorgeous plate Laurie! YUM! Also a very informative write up! Oh how I wish I knew areas around here to harvest wild plants…maybe someday.

  7. That salad is absolutely gorgeous! Looking forward to more tips and recipes for Horta as it finally gets warmer in your neck of the woods (literally).

  8. Peter M says:

    Wow…what’s better…the wild greens or the carpaccio?

    If you have any links we could read about recognizing good from bad greens, much appreciated.

  9. this looks absolutely fantastic. i love carpaccio and the bitterness of wild greens would go so well in this dish.
    such a great idea! very impressive.

  10. That does, indeed, look glorious!
    I have enough dandelions in my garden to keep me busy for a long, long time… and nettles, but I haven’t been able to convince me to actually eat a nettle!

  11. MEDITERRANEAN KIWI says:

    hi laurie, i’ve entered for your weekend herb blogging; i hope i’ve followed the rules correctly!

  12. MEDITERRANEAN KIWI says:

    i agree about chickweed – it’s not much of a plant, but i do actually add it to my horto-kalitsounia just for more bulk.
    i will soon be picking and cooking nettles for the first time in my life – hope it’s worth it.

  13. Bee, thin leaves and thick center flesh is fine for dandelions – just make sure to remove any flower buds.

    Mansi, thank you! I love your entry – everything about it was new to me.

    Peter G, you gave me a good chuckle – one of my first memories of Greece was driving down the road and wondering why there were so many women bent over in the fields. Of course, they were gathering horta!

    Gay, I can’t wait until you use your dandelions – I know you’ll come up with a wonderful way to prepare them.

    Glad you like it Kalyn. When I freeze them in zip locks I take care to flatten the bags so I can stack them like cordwood in the freezer. There’s nothing worse that being hit by a flying ball of frozen greens when you open the freezer door.

    Jenn, there’s lots of wild edibles in your area. For central Florida, here’s a link to get you started: http://www.nbbd.com/godo/ef/edibles/index.html

    Manju, the sun is shining and it’s gorgeous today! We’re up to 17 hours of daylight and climbing.

    Peter, for me, the wild greens are better – especially when they’re the sweet little ones at the beginning of the season. On recognizing good from bad greens, it’s a matter of studying field guides for your region. For Ontario, here’s a link to get you started: http://wildwoodsurvival.com/survival/food/edibleplants/index.html

    Anna, you’ve hit the nail on the head of why the two taste so good together.

    Katie, nettles are one of my very favorite wild green because they grow in large patches, so are easy to harvest, easy to clean, and have a very mild flavor. Just be sure to wear gloves when you are handling them raw. Once nettles are cooked, they are no longer capable of stinging you.

    Maria, the thing about chickweed for me is I hate cleaning them. Now, if someone would hand me a nice pile of already cleaned chickweed, I’d be quite happy. And like I told Katie above, nettles are way worth it.

  14. Cakelaw says:

    I would love to be able to gather wild herbs to cook with! And the very word “dandelion” has a magical quality that I associate with spring. Lovely looking carpaccio.

  15. Anna Haight says:

    Personally, I’ve only gathered wild mushrooms here in the SF Bay area (black chanterelles, candy canes, morels, etc), but I’m sure there are other deliciously wild things here to gather too. Sent my entry in earlier this week.

  16. Great Big Veg Challenge says:

    I love this salad you have created – I introduced my son to dandelions last year for the first time in a bacon, croutons – basically a tepid salad. It was a success…

  17. Plucking wild greens in urban areas is a bit dicey, but they are becoming more popular in farmers markets and the like of Whole Foods.

    Zingy recipe, Laurie.

    (I’m in for WHB this week, just squeaking under deadline.)

  18. aforkfulofspaghetti says:

    A deliciously summery, seasonal meal. Wonderful.

  19. bleeding espresso says:

    Great info. Here in southern Italy we do a lot of wild chicory and wild finocchio and another green I don’t know the name of in English. Not a lot of dandelions; I’ll have to ask my MIL why not….

  20. Cakelaw, sounds like you’d better buy a local guidebook to edible plants and bone up before next spring!

    Anna, loved your entry. And since you are a finder, foraging for wild foods sounds like just the thing.

    Great Big Veg – mmm, dandelion and bacon salad with croutons is SO good – a perfect spring meal.

    Susan, in general I agree with you about urban foraging – although Steve Brill has made a career out of foraging in Central Park.

    Forkful, thanks!

    Bleeding Espresso, I’d be interested in what you’re MIL says about dandelions in Italy…

  21. myfrenchkitchen says:

    This looks glorious! I think summer is going to be too short to fit in all that I see and want to try. Great combination- dandelion, truffle and carpaccio!
    ronell

  22. Ronell, that’s always the problem – too many recipes and not enough time!

    FYI, bleeding espresso and others – I’ve investigated dandelions in Italian cuisine and they are definitely used – they are called tarassaco in Italian.

  23. Sam Sotiropoulos says:

    Laurie, I am trying to catch up on my blog reading as I’ve been busy of late… but dandelion greens have to be among my favourite field greens. This carpaccio salad recipe sounds awesome! BTW, I should mention that my wife really enjoyed Zafiris’ Zucchini and eggs… I have made it several times since your posting. :-)

  24. We Are Never Full says:

    WOWZERS… i can’t believe how I’m salivating at this picture. Just want to let you know I’m really enjoying poking around your blog. Very delicious things.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>