DIGGING IN: Cooking with Dandelions

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Thursday, May 7, 2015, 7:24 am
Chris Root

As a lover of vegetable gardening, I look forward each spring to the first “meals from the garden.” Even with our jerry-rigged greenhouse of three old storm windows laid across a repurposed sandbox, the lettuces, spinach, and arugula planted a month ago aren’t yet anywhere near ready to pick this early in the spring.

So, three years ago, I started harvesting dandelions that are abundant at this time of year – not only the leaves for various mixed-greens recipes throughout the growing season, but particularly the flowers during their peak season in April, weeks before anything in our planted garden is ready.

I harvest dandelion flowers from our back yard, where I know chemicals haven’t been applied and dogs probably haven’t preceded me.

Dandelion flowers open on sunny days and last only until about dusk, so picking is best done mid-day. Dandelions produce flowers for several weeks fairly prolifically, so if you miss one day’s flowers, there should be others to pick soon. I had not noticed the many different varieties of dandelions until I started picking the flowers. Concentrate on ones with the fullest, largest blossoms.

The flowers will close in a few hours once picked, so it’s best to move to the next step within a few hours. Leaving the flowers in a colander in the sink for a little while gives a few small ants that may have clung to the blossoms a chance to climb out.

Picking flowers is the quickest part of preparing dishes with dandelion petals. Separating the yellow petals from the bitter green sepals that hold the flowers together takes a lot of time. I use a scissors to cut across the flower a little above the stem and then pull off the sepals; this works best if you cut low enough that some of the sepals are still connected to each other, looking something like fat false eyelashes as they are pulled off.

Don’t expect to stand at a kitchen counter to prep enough flowers to fill a cup of petals. This task may be made more bearable by doing it while watching TV, listening to music, or conversing with a friend.

If you don’t pick enough flowers in one day to make a full recipe, separate the petals from the flowers you pick, mix them with a little bit of white flour to keep them from matting together, and put them a jar in the refrigerator.

I have two favorite recipes using dandelion petals – one savory and one sweet. The first is a dandelion petal and chickpea veggie burger. This recipe freezes well. This weekend, I picked dandelion flowers on four days in succession and then quadrupled the recipe; after enjoying burgers for two meals, 18 burgers are now in the freezer for the fall and winter.

The second recipe is pancakes made with fresh lemon juice and zest. The zest and dandelion petals add a nice yellow color in the pancakes, and the fresh lemon juice, added both before and after cooking, makes the flavor pop. Both of these recipes are adapted from versions I found online, with an emphasis on whole-grain flours.

Dandelion Petal and Chickpea Burgers

1 cup packed dandelion petals

1 cup flour (mixture of whole wheat and white flour, cornmeal, oatmeal)

1/3 of 15-ounce can of chickpeas, drained

1 egg

3 tablespoons milk

1/2 cup finely chopped onions

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon cumin

1/4 teaspoon each basil and oregano

1/8 tsp pepper

In blender, spin old fashioned oatmeal to a coarse flour consistency. Mix it with other dry ingredients. Put chickpeas (garbanzo beans) in blender and process. Add egg and milk and blend again. Mix dandelion petals and onions into flour using your hands, then add ingredients from blender. Form into patties and pan fry in oil until browned (about 3 minutes on each side). Serve on half a bagel or inside half a pita. Good with mustard, dill pickles, or melted Swiss cheese and lettuce or peppers. Cooked burgers freeze well and can be warmed up in the microwave.


Dandelion Blossom Pancakes

1/4 cup each white flour, whole wheat flower, cornmeal, and old fashioned oatmeal (whirred in a spice grinder or blender)

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 tsp baking powder

1 egg

1 - 2 tablespoons oil

1 - 3 tablespoons honey or sugar

1 cup milk

Zest and juice from one lemon

1/2 cup dandelion blossom petals


1. Mix dry ingredients. Lightly mix petals into dry mixture with your hands.

2. Mix wet ingredients and lemon zest and add them into the dry ingredients. Add about 1 tablespoon of lemon juice to the batter.

3. Adjust consistency by adding a little more milk or flour, if needed.

4. Cook on lightly oiled grill.

5. Top with butter (or not) and favorite syrup. Squeeze a little fresh lemon juice over the pancake at same time as the syrup.

Googling “dandelion flower recipes” yields recipes for lots of other dishes, including fried whole flowers, soups, fritters, cookies, bread, and even dandelion flower syrup and wine.

Enjoy a taste of April!


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