Ranking higher than lettuce in protein, carbohydrates, calcium and iron, and much higher in nearly all vitamins and minerals, the free growing Taraxacum officinale is truly a super green. With more beta-carotene than carrots and an iron and calcium content greater than spinach, dandelions are one of the most versatile and nutritious edible weeds.
The dandelion is a perennial, herbaceous plant with long, deeply toothed, lance-shaped leaves and golden yellow composite flowers. All parts of this plant exude a white milky sap when broken. Although introduced to North America by European settlers as a companion plant to their imported honey bees, dandelions quickly spread unchecked across the continent.
When foraging for dandelions, use a little common sense and avoid harvesting near roads to avoid road salt and other toxins, and from lawns where herbicides have been used. The plant is easy to identify and there are no poisonous look-alikes.
All parts of the dandelion are edible. The leaves can be boiled, sautéed or steamed, all of which reduces their bitterness. They can simply be eaten uncooked as salad greens that taste something like chicory and endive. The leaves are at their least bitter in the early spring, before flowers appear, or in the fall after the first frost. Dandelion flowers can be added to salads, made into wine or jelly, stir-fried with other vegetables, or fried in batter. Dandelion roots have traditionally been roasted to make a coffee-like beverage. They can also be boiled or stir-fried then used as a cooked vegetable.
Here is a Cree recipe for fried fish and dandelion leaves from Native Tech.
Dandelion Stir Fry
dash of salt and pepper
3 wild onions
bacon grease or other fat
2 trout, salmon, or bass
6 handfuls of Dandelion Greens
few pinches of ground white sage
Cut and clean fish and cut into long strips.
Slice lemon into thin disks.
Wash and chop dandelion leaves.
Grease a metal fry pan slightly with bacon fat or oil to prevent the fish from sticking.
Put the pan on a semi-hot coal and add fish strips.
Add chopped onion, 1/2 of the thin lemon slices, salt, pepper, and white sage.
Let the fish cook about 3/4 of the way and then add the dandelion leaves.
Continue cooking until the leaves are soft and the fish is browned.
Adjust seasoning to taste.
Serve with the remaining half of the lemon slices.