Dandelions are probably the most recognisable weed out there, so simple to spot that a child can easily identify it which is great, as you can send them out to forage for you! There are no toxic lookalikes to this plant, though there are similar plants which don't have anywhere the nutrition of the dandelion so it's worth learning how to identify it....
The simplest things to check for is that the flower is on one stem, rather than many flowers branching off the same stem, and that there are no fuzzy hairs on the underside of the leaf - dandelion leaves have smooth backs.
There are so many benefits to foraging for and eating wild foods that they just couldn't be covered in this post, but lets start with what's so special about the dandelion:
It's free. Free food that's easy to find and recognisable; bonus.
It is abundant, and after taking the leaves and flowers it grows right back!
The whole plant is edible, the leaves, flowers and root.
It contains a huge amount of nutrition, including vitamins A, C and K. It also contains B vitamins, some even say it has B12, if this is true (I can't confirm this, still investigating) it would be one of the very few plant based sources that we know of.
It contains a variety of minerals too including iron, calcium (even more than kale) and magnesium, great news for bone health!
You can eat it raw in salads, sautee it like spinach and juice it like wheat grass.
Just one word of caution, be careful where you pick them! Don't get them from roadsides or parks and gardens where they may have been treated with pesticides, your own back garden is a great place to start, as well as pretty meadows!
The girls harvested a pretty decent bunch from our back garden (this is such a great activity for children), which luckily for us has more weeds than grass (I never thought I'd be so happy about this)! We decided to make a pesto with their bounty to pour over some wholemeal pasta, and it really worked out a treat....
Ingredients (serves 4)
2 big handfuls of dandelion greens
2 handfuls of fresh basil leaves
1 handful of spinach (optional)
The petals from 5 dandelion flowers
1 large clove of garlic
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 handful of pine nuts
1 handful of hemp, sunflower seeds or macadamia nuts
Enough extra virgin olive oil to bind the sauce together, around 4-6 tbsp
Juice of half a lemon
1 tbsp nutritional yeast flakes (optional)
Wash the dandelion well in a solution of water and raw cider vinegar, using a couple of tablespoons of vinegar to about a litre of water. Wash and spin dry all the greens. Pop all the ingredients into a pestle and mortar or food processor and pound/blitz till nearly smooth - I like to leave a little texture to my pesto but play around with it. And that's it! Pretty simple and very scrummy.