It is officially spring when little yellow flowers begin to pop up in the thousands, turning every lawn into a star-studded carpet worthy of applause.
Not everyone thinks the same way though. Much has been written about how to kill this pesky “weed”, to eliminate it from our monocultured green lawns forever.
Instead, what if we embraced the beauty – and medicine – that dandelions have to offer from root, stem and flower?
What if we let the dandelions bloom, unsprayed, to feed bees and wildlife around us?
When we leave dandelions to their own devices, they will flourish, and provide us with plenty of raw, natural material for salves, syrups, infused oils, soaps, lotions, tinctures and teas.
A dandelion by any other name
Most people are familiar with the most common name of these perennial flowers: dandelion, while Taraxacum officinale is the Latin one.
What you may not know, however, is that dandelions are in the daisy family, Asteraceae, along with chamomile, chicory and globe artichokes.
If you are going to learn about plants, it is always useful to learn the Latin names and observe them by both leaf and flower structure.
You’ll also hear dandelions called by other names, in reference to both flavor and character:
- lion’s tooth (relating to the leaves)
- milk witch
- piss-in-bed (due to the fact that it is a diuretic)
- priest’s crown
- swine’s snout
- and wild endive
In the end, it will never be a rose, it will always be just what it is meant to be. A slightly sweet smelling flower that opens up every morning and closes at night. The smell of the sun shining down, something we never will forget.
Now it is time to put on your dandelion crown and have some fun!
Go back in memory to your childhood, and envision collecting dandelion flowers. Sweeping the yellow pollen onto someone else’s palm like a small broom you chant “Mama swept the floor, sister swept the floor… baby peed all over the floor” And at the last minute you rub the flower onto the skin, making a yellow stain.
Fun stuff for kids, but adults are the more serious crowd, wondering how we can best utilize the foraged plant for our greater benefit.
Just don’t forget that dandelion stems make great horns…
Once you start eating and enjoying dandelions, you’ll never look at them the same way again. In fact, you will be trying to save as many as you can, if not for your own use, then for the bees, creatures and other insects that rely on them for survival.
Whatever you do, stop using weed killers, glyphosate and other chemicals to kill them. Allow them to be part of your yard and harvest them for the abundant nutritional benefits that they provide.
The bitter leaves are rich in vitamins A, E, K, B1, B2, B6 and C. They are also mineral-rich in substances such as magnesium, iron, copper and folate.
Use the entire plant, along with other wild “weeds” to bring inexhaustible energy into your life.
Dandelion flowers have their specific uses too. Add them to cakes, make a nourishing tea, brew some dandelion wine, there is so much to do!
20 exciting (and practical) things to do with dandelion flowers
When your yard starts to yellow-up, it is time to think about preserving all those beautiful petals, before it is too late!
Harvest the leaves early in the season, before they become too bitter to be enjoyable, and air dry them as you would any other herb.
Dandelion buds appear at the base of the leaves in early spring, before they shoot up to the sky. It is at this stage that they should be harvested for pickled dandelion buds.
Dandelion flowers should be harvested on a sunny day. Bring in only as many as you need at once, this way you can share the bounty with nature.
Yellow dandelion flowers are rich in vitamin A and they are surprisingly sweet. Be careful not to include the green sepals into whatever recipe you are going to eat, as they tend on the bitter side.
It is also helpful to know that dandelion flowers are best added to food that is to be cooked. While they are easy to separate from the flowering head, the individual petals can be a bit dry when sprinkled raw on foods.
Dandelion roots can be lifted anytime throughout the growing season. The roots are slightly more bitter in spring, mellowing out as the ground cools and temperatures dip into fall.
And of course, when harvesting, be sure to only pick where the dandelions have not been sprayed!
If you are allergic to dandelion, find another perennial weed to harvest, such as stinging nettle, goosefoot or plantain. In some cases they can be used interchangeably in the recipes that follow.
1. Dandelion vinegar
Infused vinegars are all the rage, at least on our homestead.
Nasturtium vinegar can be found sitting in small batches all throughout summer, dandelion leaf and dandelion flower vinegar makes its appearance in early spring, long before the other flowers take hold.
If you have been on the lookout for a digestive spring tonic, try this dandelion infused vinegar and feel what you think.
How to Make Infused Dandelion Vinegar @ Grow Forage Cook Ferment
2. Dandelion infused honey
In winter we soak freshly cracked walnuts in honey. When spring offers dandelions, however, they are impossible to resist!
Collect 3-4 large handfuls of fully open dandelion blossoms, make sure all the little critters have walked or flown away, then place them in a jar (unwashed – you do not want to add moisture to the jar) and cover them with a pint of raw honey.
Stir the honey-coated flowers with a knife, or chop stick, to make sure that any bubbles are allowed to come to the top. Put on a lid, and let it sit for 2 weeks in a dark place to sweetly infuse.
There is no need to strain the mixture, use as is in your herbal teas.
3. Dandelion syrup
Once you are beyond the novelty phase of caramelized spruce tip syrup, now it is time to try your hand at making dandelion syrup of the traditional Scandinavian kind.
It can be made with sugar, or honey, and optional rhubarb if you have any extra stalks without a job. The dandelion syrup recipe takes about 50 dandelion flowers – it will barely make a dent in your backyard harvest.
And what to do with that luscious syrup?
Drizzle it on your dandelion pancakes of course! You can also coat your homemade yogurt with a generous spoonful, or better yet, top your pancakes with yogurt and dandelion syrup.
Here are two amazing recipes to experiment with:
Dandelion Syrup With Green Apples @ The Nerdy Farm Wife
Homemade Dandelion Syrup @ Nature’s Nurture
4. Pickled dandelion flower buds
When we think of dandelion flowers, our minds automatically dream up something sweet. Don’t worry, the dandelion ice cream is coming!
But what about highlighting dandelion flowers on the savory side?
Naturally, you could add them to breads, crackers or salty scones, yet another way to truly enjoy them is by making dandelion capers.
All you need to do is forage for dandelion buds, add some vinegar, water and salt to make a brine and pickle them till your heart is content.
Process the jars in a water bath for later in the year, or store them in the fridge for more immediate eating.
5. Dandelion jelly
There is nothing better than cracking open a jar of intense yellow jelly in winter to remind you of the spring flowers to come.
Recipes for making dandelion jelly are numerous. Type in a quick search and you’ll come up with a handful of very similar ones. Here’s a good recipe.
All it takes, is dandelion blossoms, water, powdered pectin, sugar, lemon and a little patience to boil everything together.
6. Dandelion pancakes and cupcakes
Deep fried dandelions are one glorious way to eat the flowers, another way is to make a mouthwatering stack of banana dandelion pancakes that are both vegan and gluten-free. Wild isn’t it?!
Don’t forget that you can toss the fresh petals into any kind of dough or batter.
If you are looking for something fancy to set out for brunch, why not bake some dandelion cupcakes with sunflower seeds, topped with a scrumptious lemon frosting?
They smell simply amazing as they come out of the oven. What are you waiting for?!
7. Dandelion and honey ice cream
If you have never had dandelion flowers in your ice cream, you are definitely missing out!
Make this spring/summer the year that it happens, if you just so happen to adore ice cream, that is.
Choose your favorite homemade ice cream recipe and add one cup of dandelion petals to the mixture. It doesn’t matter if it is dairy based, a bowl of refreshing coconut ice cream or homemade vegan cashew ice cream – it all tastes amazing!
8. Dandelion tea
The dandelion season is not complete without having tea, at least once, or ten times. Drink it as often as feels good.
But, before you brew a cup for yourself and your family, it is best to get informed about the benefits, and possible side effects, of drinking dandelion tea.
This applies to eating all parts of the plant as well. Use your intuition and ask questions to the right people if you are ever unsure.
Here are 4 Easy Methods to Make Healthy Dandelion Tea & 13 Recipes to Try Out @ Morning Chores
9. Dandelion soda
Kids will love this one! It is a wonderful alternative to the most recognized sodas out there. Plus it uses foraged dandelion flowers, and a ginger bug starter.
Without the plastic waste associated with sugary drinks in general, it is an awesome way to make a fizzy soda at home, using the dandelions from your backyard.
Dandelion Soda Recipe: Naturally Fermented With a Ginger Bug! @ Homestead Honey
10. Dandelion tincture
Plantain tincture is a wonderful natural remedy for coughs and sore throats, yet sometimes it is your entire body that is begging for a pick-me-up.
If your liver and digestion feels sluggish, try a dosage of dandelion tincture to correct for the winter slow-down. You can use more than just the flowers in this case, adding the stems, leaves and roots too.
11. Dandelion flower infused oil
If you are intently curious to make your own dandelion salves and lip balms, you first need to start with a dandelion infused oil – and chances are good that you won’t always find what you need at the store.
Making fresh flower infused oils is not a secret, but there are things you need to watch out for. You need to take care that the carrier oil does not go rancid, and that bacterial growth does not take over with the increased water content of your infused oil.
It takes a little trial and error to make a dandelion flower infused oil just right. Here are the important steps you need to take:
12. Dandelion flower salve
Now, that you’ve invested time and energy into making an infused oil, the time to make a dandelion flower salve has arrived.
Why use a dandelion salve? It is good for relieving sore muscles, aches and pains of the homesteading kind.
It can also be used for soothing and moisturizing dry, cracked skin on your hands or feet.
Learn how to make your own healing dandelion salve here.
13. Dandelion wine
If hard apple cider has been on your to-do list for ages now, only you haven’t quite gotten around to it, why not try making dandelion wine or mead instead?
All are flavorful and all are special in their own ways.
If you are looking for something unique (and foraged) to gift to the people you love, you better get started as soon as the dandelions are flowering!
Here is one way to make your own dandelion wine.
14. Dandelion mead
Dandelion mead uses honey, instead of sugar, to initiate the fermentation process, and the results are heavenly indeed! Is it better than wine? You’ll have to try it each way to find out.
In the meantime, find out what equipment you need to make dandelion mead happen this season.
15. Dandelion bath bombs
Remember that dandelion infused oil that you absolutely must make?! If you wish to relax in the bath by the fizz of a dandelion bath bomb, you are going to need that essential ingredient, plus several more.
If you’ve never made them before, relax. It is easier than you think.
They make excellent gifts (even for yourself!) and they could be a wonderful way to start making a side income from your homestead.
16. Dandelion soap
Every home needs a bar of homemade soap to help you stay clean and healthy. It feels good to have a generous stockpile of herbal soaps, just so there is never fear of running out!
If you long to try your hand at making seasonal soaps, yet need a trusty recipe to get started, try this on for size (it also takes dandelion infused oil):
Cold Process Dandelion Soap Recipe in 10 Steps @ Three Hills Soap
17. Dandelion and fennel kombucha
If you make your own kombucha (and you should), you’ll want to mix up a batch of dandelion and fennel kombucha.
A fresh, cold glass of fizzy kombucha is the perfect drink after a heavy meal, or a great way to start your day if you don’t like a lot of caffeine.
Dandelion and fennel kombucha @ The Herbal Academy
18. Dye Yarn or fabric with dandelion flowers
Not only are the flowers cheery and sunny, but they can be used to dye yarn and fabric a lovely pastel yellow. You can use alum as a simple mordant.
You’ll have the perfect spring shade for your next handknit project. A sunny dishcloth, a bucket hat for the beach, or go big and dye enough fabric for a yellow skirt.
Dying with dandelion flowers @ Fiber Artsy
19. Dandelion Shortbread
If there’s one classic cookie that you can’t go wrong with, it’s shortbread. The sandy, crumbly texture melts in your mouth.
Shortbread is a great cookie for adding edible flowers too, and dandelion fits the bill perfectly. You could easily turn them into thumbprint cookies and add a teaspoon of dandelion jam.
Dandelion shortbread @ Adamant Kitchen
20. Dandelion & honey marshmallows
This humble campfire treat is having a resurgence in popularity – only homemade. If you’ve never had the pleasure of enjoying the homemade version, you’re missing out.
Dandelions are the perfect spring ingredient for these tasty confections. Whip up a batch today.
Dandelion & honey marshmallows @ Adamant Kitchen
Dandelion flowers are not just for humans
Chickens, goats, deer, rabbits, mice and hedgehogs will all munch on dandelions as they graze.
Dandelions act as an early spring food source for bees (although they are not as important as many people suggest) so be sure to leave plenty for them.
Songbirds are infinitely more interested in the dandelion seeds.
It is truly food for everyone, so make sure to only take as much as you need!
If you are interested in turning your lawn into a wildflower meadow, make sure to leave as many dandelions as possible, and mow them infrequently – they will grow stronger and keep coming back.
A note of caution:
When experimenting with herbal remedies, always exercise vigilance. What may be good for you, may be too much for someone else.
Dandelions are considered safe for most people with adequate immune systems. However, if you are pregnant, nursing, taking other medications or have gallstones, check with your health care provider before using any part of the dandelion internally.
Most of all, have fun harvesting and creating with nature’s golden bounty!