May UFH Challenge Round 1: Humble Superfood

I can’t believe it’s May already. When I first hatched this year-long challenge way back in January, May seemed so far away. I was still all snow and out of dry wood and three layers of long johns and numb fingers from cleaning and filling the bazillion animal waterers daily, and happy if there actually was running water to accomplish that chore.

May was a full five pages ahead on the calendar and gin and tonic season and sprinklers and popsicles and nearly the end of school. May was the garden popping and frogs croaking and baby goats being born and I had so much time to get the garden and orchard in still. Only now it’s May and the goat babies and frogs are here and the garden is popping and the orchard is in.

That means it’s time to let the garden do its business for a few short weeks and enjoy yourself before you become a slave to winter gardening and the crush of harvest and {gasp} food preservation. Are you with me?

I’ve got prizes…I’ve got Hank Shaw’s new book, Hunt, Gather, Cook: Finding the Forgotten Feast and Langdon Cook’s book Fat of the Land: Adventures of a 21st Century Forager and Jennifer Hahn’s book Pacific Feast: A Cook’s Guide to West Coast Foraging and Cuisine. And for those of you who can’t get away ever I’ve even got mushroom plugs for you to innoculate in your own yard. So let’s get started.

This first challenge is a simple one and probably embarrassingly predictable.

I want you to explore the humble dandelion. Surely you know the one.

It was the first flower you appreciated for one of it’s most amazing qualities – the ability to spread its seeds far and wide. While your mother set you down on a blanket in the grass you crawled to the edge and grabbed its white globe with your chubby fingers and plucked it right off its stem. Later you learned to chant “Mama had a baby and it’s head popped off” as you ripped the seed head off the slender neck. And later still you learned to close your eyes and blow while wishing, as all those hundreds of seed heads floated away on the breeze and suddenly you were left with nothing but a naked stem. So you repeated the act on another and another.

Years later, after you purchased your first home and tried to grow a perfect lawn you might even have learned to hate the humble dandelion. And if you didn’t, your neighbors surely did as the dandelions in your lawn took over theirs.

In this challenge, I want you to get to know the dandelion a little bit better. I even want you to try embracing the dandelion. And you just may after you read about it on my friend Melany’s blog, www.WeedCuisine.Co. There is more to this simple flower than meets the eye. Next week we’ll move into more challenging territory and stretch your limits a bit further but for this week go for a walk. Find a dandelion. Make a wish.

24 Responses to May UFH Challenge Round 1: Humble Superfood

  1. This is an easy one for me because I had a great opportunity to check out dandelions up close and personal. We recently moved to the dry side of Oregon after being life long wet siders. Our yard here was horribly mistreated by the last tenants, so much so in fact that we expected to have to redo it completely, which of course would mean lots less grass and lots more veg and chicken run. However when the thaw came and the green started popping, we had a fairly healthy mix of dandelions and grass over much of the third of an acre our house occupies.

    Here are my observations:
    ~the time that dandelions taste good is really short
    ~as soon as they start to flower, they are so bitter your face implodes
    ~if you let them flower before you mow them, they will flower again on TEENY little stems
    ~the chickens love them even if they are too bitter for human consumption

    Great challenge!!

  2. Once the flowers appeared (early this year in my part of the country), I rushed out and picked enough to make a batch of dandelion jelly (recipes on Internet) and dandelion wine. The wine is still burbling away, and should be drinkable in time for Christmas. (I used a recipe from a wine book, but there are many recipes on the Internet, and demos on various techniques on YouTube.) Hey, if you can’t beat them, you might as well eat them!

  3. So timely! My 18 month old just learned how fun it is to blow the seed heads! I’m just trying to teach him not to blow them directly into my garden.

  4. We love dandelions! I remember knowing I had done a good job with the children when I heard one of them remark, upon looking at the dandelions in the front lawn area, “Look at all the food on the lawn!!!”
    Baby Asmaa brings me a handful every day…clearly they are just flowers to her, not weeds…

  5. I had SO much fun this month!

    I decided to start my first medicinal herb garden. I now have Yarrow, Plantain, Chamomile, and Calendula babies growing in my window! I can’t wait for the weather to warm up and get them planted outside. I’m dreaming of the lotions, salves and teas in the future! I planted Echinacea… but it didn’t come up… I might buy that one.

    I also started my garden SO much earlier than normal and it looks like I will only need to buy tomato and pepper plants (I’ll start those earlier next year). Currently I have rainbow carrots, lettuce, radishes, broccoli, swiss chard, beets, cucumber, patty pans, zucchini, winter squash and peas all up and growing. The swiss chard, beets and peas are out and the rest under cold frames my sweet hubby made me! I might ask for one more cold frame and try to get a jump on beans this year. :)

    I also tried to grow celery from the end piece of one I bought from the store. It started growing after just a couple days and is doing REALLY well! I did the same thing with spinach and they are a little slower, but still working! Although the celery is under a cold frame and the spinach are not.

    I also planted asparagus crowns early this spring and two of the 6 crowns have baby asparagus growing!

    Over all I’m very excited about my garden this year! Thanks for the challenge!

  6. oh no…I really don’t want to eat dandelions.

  7. This is a super easy one for me! I have been cultivating dandelions in my garden for over 12 years. We LOVE the greens, have made many things out of the flowers over the years, and are recently learning to use the roots. My bees LOVE the flowers :) as this is often their first foraging food around here!

  8. Well I know my chickens love them. I always save them when I did them up from the front lawn. They go crazy.

  9. Julia Kaiser

    I am making dandelion jelly!

  10. Ew, bitter greens are hard to love in our house, even with bacon. However, the kids conned me into going out with a digging stick and filling the bucket with dock, dandelions and mustard weeds for the chickens! And then we went puddle-jousting after the nasty rain today.

  11. I have always loved dandelions. The bright yellow colors bring me into spring. I am with you with theMmay challenge. I am actually a little behind, my hot compost pile I was suppose to start in February is not being gathered for May!! My goal to catch up with the challenge…..dandelion learning I go.

  12. Thankyou, this has been a lovely and interesting journey into this humble super-food. The information you have provided is great and I just felt compelled to look at your friend Melany’s site, thankyou for sharing it really reinforced so many fundamentals of sustainable eating. Your blog is wonderful in getting people active and practicing these ways. I have seen a lot of resonance with other authors I have read on this topic too, in particular Mark Jensen’s -The Urban Cook.
    This opportunity has also led me to research some fantastic recipes with Dandelions and I found this Dandelion Pesto recipe fabulous:
    Dandelion Pesto
    With all the steps you have taken me on and the other knowledge I found and built upon through your initial post, I am really happy to have found something of great value to follow more in the future.
    I am the editor in chief of an online publication, Chic Traveller and we would love to keep in touch and receive news on your future activities each month as part of the 2012 Urban Farmbook Challenge. Please feel free to join our community on our facebook page
    Chic Traveller

  13. My husband and I just made dandelion extract, for liver cleaning. Working on more dandelion learning, do I share them here for the challenge or on my blog??? Thank you!

  14. I just got the book Dandelion Celebration and printed out some stuff on dandelions for my little guy to learn about them for homeschool, so the timing is perfect for me! Thanks!


  15. Yesterday I threw some dandelion flowers in my salad. Besides looking lovely, they actually tasted great! How did I not know you could eat them? Since we don’t spray our lawn, my girls are foraging in the grass. Really wonderful :)


    Id forgotten how bitter dandelion greens can be, but i ate them anyway.
    Though in the future ill probably leave the dandelion greens for the chickens to eat.

  17. This is going to be hard for me! Truly nothing has ever made me want to eat a dandelion!

  18. I have a friend who does all kinds of things with dandelions but I’ve never tried them. Well I know I did when I was a kid, but not lately. I loved the link and did learn several things about them I didn’t know. One thing that should be added is that dandelions are usually one of the first flowers a mother receives from her child. I remember giving them to my mother and I received many many dandelion bouquets from my own daughter.

  19. The dandelion is a good spring tonic. It detoxifies the liver & kidneys. Dandelion flowers and leaves are very good raw, in a salad or sauteed in butter. My chickens also enjoy these fresh greens. You can always count on the dandelion as the first leafy green of spring.

  20. I love to see them in my yard, too. They are one of the first sources of necatr for bees in the Spring. They also make a beautiful colored water. I sometimes just soak them in water and use the water in a vase as a decoration. I think you can dye with them as well, but I have never done it.

  21. Ok, so I went out and ate a dandelion. I can’t say I’m a fan of just picking it out of the ground and eating it. I’m thinking I would like to try my hand at some jelly or tea though!

  22. Pingback: May UFH Foraging Challenge #4: Something for Dessert | Sustainable Eats & the Dancing Goat Gardens Communal Project

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