Dandelion: From weed to wild food

yellow flower with a bee on it We often consider dandelions to be weeds, but they are important pollinators. They can also be wild food. — Heather Wolfe

My youngest child gifted me a beautiful bouquet of dandelions for Mother’s Day. God is teaching me through dandelions. For much of my life I’ve heard this ubiquitous plant called a weed (defined by the Oxford Dictionary as “a wild plant growing where it is not welcome and in competition with cultivated plants”). Most of my gardening career I have ruthlessly weeded out the dandelion so that my desired plantings could have exclusive access to soil nutrients, water and sun.

That changed seven years ago when I attended a community workshop on permaculture that exposed me to the diversity of roles plants have in the ecosystem. Appreciative words were used to describe the dandelion. “Wildflower.” “Biodynamic accumulator.” “Free food!” As I opened myself up to curiosity, setting aside judgment and misunderstandings, I began to see the dandelion’s value in the ecosystem and how I might be invited to work with it, rather than against, to see a flower as a friend, not a foe. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “A weed is a plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered.” Once I discovered the virtues of the dandelion, the plant was no longer a weed.

Virtues of the dandelion include a long taproot, which allows the plant to mine minerals from deep within the soil, bringing those up to the surface and making nutrients available to share with other plants. This function makes the dandelion an important biodynamic accumulator with benefits for soil and plant health. I have changed my practice from uprooting every dandelion to a chop-and-drop approach. In the garden, I will leave the taproot in place while cutting off the leaves (and blossoms before they go to seed), allowing the dandelions to add their gift of accumulated nutrients back into the top layer of soil. 

I welcome some dandelions flowering within my cultivated garden. I’ve learned their early spring blooms are an important nectar source for insects such as bees and butterflies when other flowers aren’t blooming yet. Without pollinator insects, many of the foods I enjoy eating could not produce fruit, such as apples, berries and squash. Providing hospitality to dandelions helps the pollinators, which in turn helps me. We find in nature everything is connected to everything else.

Domestic and wild animals, including humans, enjoy eating all different parts of the dandelion. Spring dandelion greens are wonderful additions to salads if you are confident where you are picking has not been sprayed with chemicals. For the health of all foragers, choosing an organic approach to lawn and garden care is recommended. Last Mother’s Day at Wild Church, the kids honorably harvested dandelions and used all the parts: we made a salad with the greens, served dandelion blossom tea and brewed a delicious roasted dandelion root “coffee.”

As I plant my garden this spring, I am reminded with each dandelion I encounter of this transformed relationship. Instead of regarding and discarding dandelion as weed, I am harvesting some for food with gratitude and leaving some as food and soil enrichment for others. I wonder where else I see “weeds” in the world around me that could benefit from a transformative, more holistic and appreciative worldview. Who am I labeling a “weed,” having not yet discovered their virtues? God’s garden lessons, when I allow them to take root deeply and bloom like the dandelions, help shift my mindset and reveal beauty.

Roast dandelion roots, grind them and brew a caffeine-free tea that is like coffee. — Heather Wolfe

Roasted Dandelion Root ‘Coffee’

Have dandelions? This caffeine-free beverage is brewed like tea; however, roasting the roots adds a depth of flavor more like coffee. Like coffee and dark chocolate, dandelions are sensed as bitter to our taste buds.


  • dandelion roots


Scrub dandelion roots. Chop into even sized pieces. Spread onto a baking sheet in a single layer.  Roast at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for about 60 minutes, or until roots are dark and dry. They should be brittle and snap when bent. Cool completely. Grind roots in a coffee grinder, blender or food processor. Store in an airtight container until ready to use.

When you are ready to brew a cup: Pour 1 cup boiling water over 1 heaping teaspoon of ground root. I like to use a fine mesh tea infuser. Brew for about 3 minutes.

Note: You may also experiment with blending in some dandelion when brewing your regular coffee.

Heather Wolfe

Heather Wolfe is deeply rooted in Vermont, USA, is in the Mennonite faith tradition and is part of a family Read More

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