Harvesting Dandelions

Stalking the Wild Asparagus Book Cover Stalking the Wild Asparagus
Euell Gibbons, John McPhee,
Alan C Hood & Company
January 1, 1962

An imaginative approach to cooking, offering numerous recipes for main dishes and accompaniments made from wild berries, roots, nuts, and leaves


It’s time to begin thinking about harvesting dandelions. They haven’t appeared yet, but with today’s warm weather, they’ll be popping up any minute now. For some ideas about eating them, consult Euell Gibbons’  1962 book “Stalking the Wild Asparagus.” The classic would make an ideal mothers’ day gift for a gardening mom.


Taraxacum officinale

The leaves of this specimen will taste a bit bitter.

Normally, by the time I begin harvesting dandelions (Taraxacum officinale) the flower buds are already on the plants. Not this year. The leaves don’t taste quite so bitter when I pick the plants before the flowers bud, so I’m making a special effort to get them early this year. I’m going on the prowl for these little babies beginning today.

Thinking about the task as a harvest—and actually eating the leaves I pick—makes the task slighter more rewarding than it would be if the idea were simply to make my lawn look nicer. Most years, I begin the task on a rainy day. Again, not this year! Yippee!

The key to enjoying this activity during this time of the year is to have a great recipe.

Gibbons recommends six different ways to eat the plant. This year, I’m hoping to finally try Gibbons’ dandelion crown salad and boiled unopened flower heads recipes. I’ve never been able to try them before because they both require a much earlier harvest than I usually manage. Roasted ground roots made into a coffee-like beverage has never appealed to me, because I don’t like coffee much, but I might try it anyway just for the heck of it. I’ve also never bothered either to harvest the roots and peel them to serve boiled or fried as a vegetable and that’s not likely to change, since the plants I harvest are usually too small. I’ve never bothered to gather the bright flowers and make wine either, although that’s something that might be possible from the church weeds. We’ll see.

My definite favourite recipe is wilted greens fried with garlic and bacon with a mustard sauce. This was recommended by my PWAC colleague and buddy, Steve Pitt, who posted the recipe on a list serve a few years ago. I’ve revised it slightly, and it still tastes great. Hope you like it as much as I do.

Wilted Dandelion Salad with Bacon

  • 6 strips bacon—cut into pieces
  • 1 tsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 ½ tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 6 cups dandelion greens, rinsed and dried
  • 3 oz feta cheese
  • ½ cup green olives

Fry the bacon until crisp. Put it into a steel salad bowl.

Pour off extra bacon fat, leaving just enough to cook the greens in.

Pour in the vinegar and heat to scrape the pan.

Add Dijon, honey and olive oil to make a sauce.

Add the greens and cook until they wilt. Toss everything together and serve.

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Tracey Arial

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Tracey Arial

Tracey Arial helps Canadians grow with notable nonfiction and urban agriculture.

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  • Sonja Susnjar says:

    Hmmm, definitely inspiring as an additionnal way to motivate oneself to pull up the dandelions but the question is: can I pick the dandelions in my back yard to eat when I don’t know what pesticides might have been applied before we lived there, i.e. before 2003?

    You also bring back memories of a couple of summers in the Eastern Townships when we made dandelion wine. Of the two years the first resulted in better wine — beginners’ luck no doubt– second year was a little too sweet but fun nonetheless!

    I wish I had found the time on the warn Sunday to start planting the vegetables that like cool soil in the garden — maybe soon!

    Happy gardening to all!

    • Tracey Arial says:

      Hi Sonja, My understanding is that the effects of many pesticides diminish over time, which is why some organic certification regimes require a guarantee that a farmer hasn’t sprayed pesticides for seven years, but I wasn’t able to find the studies that that assumption is based on, so I’m still not sure. I’ll keep looking, but if other readers see something, let us know.

  • Sonja Susnjar says:

    Thanks, Tracey! Dare we hope that spring is finally here?

    Happy gardening!

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