Our First Experience with Foraging



Foraging for DandelionsMy dad frequently tells me about my grandma taking him and my aunt and heading out, the three of them, to forage for dandelion greens.  Where, and how, I’m not exactly sure, but she would gather enough that when they returned home with their treasure she would can them up for later use.

If any of you have cooked greens, and know how much they cook down, then you can imagine the lot it would take to can them.

shovelWhen we purchased our place last year and I saw the acres of dandelions, I was delighted.  I’d have the opportunity to channel my grandmother and go a-foraging.   We had dandelions in our little suburban backyard.  But we also had dogs.  Nuff said.

Ever since the weather had started to warm I had been watching for them and last week it seemed like the best time to gather them.

According to Feasting Free on Wild Edibles* dandelions are best collected before they have started to flower as, after flowering, the greens put off a very bitter taste. This taste can be eliminated by boiling the greens, changing the water, and then boiling again.

The roots can also be roasted, ground, and used as a substitute for coffee. 

While dandelions are pretty easily recognized, if you have trouble identifying them, look for the toothy edges which are said to resemble a lion’s tooth, hence the name “dandelion”.

I harvested mine using a weed removing tool.  While I was not able to get much of the root itself, I was able to easily get the greens.

My husband and I don’t really mind bitter greens, so I took everything I could find that looked like it was in good shape regardless of whether it had bloomed or not.

For the two of us, I filled a large plastic bowl full, and then took them inside to clean them.  Here I will say: if you wish to gather for supper, start early in the day.  It takes some time to harvest them, and then a bit longer to clean them up.  You’ll want to rinse them several times to get rid of all the grit and then put them through a salad spinner to dry them.

Greens can be prepared a number of ways.  You could eat them raw, I suppose, or boiled as mentioned above.  I opted however, for a warm greens salad.

Dandelion salad

Finely chop about 4 oz of bacon, and begin to render the fat in a large saucepan. 

Then chop about 1/2 of a purple onion, or a shallot would be quite nice if you have one.  Add the onion to the pan and slowly cook with the bacon.  When the bacon is cooked, add your greens and toss to combine.  You want the greens wilted and tender, but still a vibrant healthy green.  If you  need to put the lid on the pan to steam them for a bit that is fine. 

When they are to your liking, drizzle with balsamic vinegar and use a spatula to stir up the bacony bits from the bottom of the pan.  Serve on small plates.  We ate ours alongside a roast chicken which was lovely, but if you have enough,  prepare them the way my grandma did: topped with a hard boiled egg.  With a side of biscuits or cornbread this could be an inexpensive meal just by itself.

While the greens provided a free meal, for which I am grateful, I have to confess that eating things out of the yard presented a bit of an “ick” factor for me.  It reminded me of afternoons as a child when I would gather dandelions, henbit, and I can’t recall what else, and happily prepare a foul smelling mud stew.  Seeing the greens and the dirty residue left behind in my sink, was not too unlike this childhood concoction. 

The grocery store, with its produce aisles stocked with pristine vegetables draws a veil between us and the dirt.  We forget that we aren’t that far removed from the soil ourselves ~ something that we would do well to remember from time to time.

dandelion head

 In sharing this post, I am sharing our experiences only.  Any foraging that you would choose to do would be at  your own risk.  If you have any doubt about identifying anything growing in the wild, leave it alone. 

*A vintage copy of Feasting Free on Wild Edibles is available in our Etsy store here.


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Our First Experience with Foraging — 24 Comments

  1. I remember the ‘potions’ I used to make as a child too but will definitely give this a go thanks for sharing

    • Your welcome. They taste pretty good, if you can get around the fact that they are “weeds”.

  2. One of the first signs of spring, seeing the dandelions popping up! My grandmother used to gather them also. They’re a bit bitter for me as the only green in a salad, but I toss a bunch in with the rest of the greens. Even my chickens seek them out as they’re so full of vitamins and minerals!

    • That’s a great suggestion Agi, I think I might tossing them with spinach. We did try them raw the other night, tossed with some balsamic vinegar. My husband really enjoyed it, but then he loves arugula, and the lettuces in the summer just before they start to bolt. Me, not so much.

  3. Forget the greens! Pop off the dandelion heads, put them in a beer batter and fry them. They are awesome! (they do get kinda nasty if you let them get cold though)

    • WOW! That sounds amazing. My husband is brewing up a batch of beer, maybe he’ll consent to using it in a batter.

  4. Such a wonderful tradition, full of rich memories and stories to pass down through the generations! We usually go forging for Morels.

    • Oh wow! I wouldn’t even know where to begin when it comes to mushrooms that is awesome. We do love Morels.

  5. So funny that you posted about this today? I just finished writing a post about a dandelion min-unit we did with the kids. So much fun! I’ll never look at a neighbor’s yard the same. ;)

    • I guess it is that time of year! I’m seeing a lot of dandelion info out there. We just had them again last night. They’re starting to grow on me (no pun intended).

  6. Sounds great with the bacon and onion! I’ve always enjoyed collecting wild greens. My guys aren’t quite as thrilled with them, however. Perhaps if I added bacon…;-)

    • We had them again this week and I will admit it takes some getting used to. Not just the flavor but the fact that you are eating weeds from the yard. :/ The bacon really does help. I use the good kind so I don’t drain off the fat, just add the greens and toss. It takes some of the bitter edge off.

  7. I love foraging! I haven’t done much I wish I was an expert enough to identify mushrooms I have all of these books but I still don’t trust myself….you REALLY have to know what you are doing when you forage for mushrooms. We are going to make some dandelion wine this year! Looks delicious by the way!

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    • Word to the wise: they really do get bitter after they bloom so if ya’ll don’t care for bitter greens, harvest them young!!!

  10. Haven’t done this yet but I have been tempted! I see a lot of people also foraging for the wild mustard growing in the various orchards around here and have considered doing the same. Gee, I wonder how dandelion and mustard salad would taste? Thanks for sharing.

  11. I’ve foraged quite a bit but haven’t used dandelion greens yet. When we lived in Greece, the first sign of spring was the “gypsies” foraging dandelions in the empty suburban lots.

    • What do you forage for Kathi? We have quite a few weeds on our acreage but I’m still learning to identify them. We really did enjoy the dandelions.