Dandelions are about the easiest plant in the world to forage. They are very invasive, and odds are you have a few growing in your backyard right now. Not only that, but since you were a child, you have been an expert at identifying them. And you can eat every bit of the plant. For these and many other reasons, they are a great first foraging target.
This recipe is a fun one to do with kids because kids of all ages can identify a dandelion flower easily and the final product is a sweet treat that everyone will enjoy.
Despite the fact that you are already likely an expert in identifying dandelions, we may as well talk about identification anyway. Paying attention to the botanical details of an already known plant is a great way to improve your plant ID skills. So, read through, and see if you can identify a dandelion based on these details, not just the gestalt that you’ve built through a lifetime of seeing these plants.
Flower: The dandelion is in the Asteraceae family, so that bright yellow flower is actually made up of a whole bunch of little ray florets (~200) spreading outward from the middle of the flower. The base of the flowerhead has green inner and outer bracts.
Leaves: Dandelion leaves are hairless and deeply toothed, from 2-10” long, and form a rosette above the taproot.
If you don’t already know dandelion leaves, get to know them. The leaves are most delicious before the plant flowers, so for ideal foraging you do not want to be reliant on that bright little flower to find your dandelions.
Dandelions grow all over the place, so you can be a bit picky in terms of where you forage them. Try to avoid places where they may be sprayed with herbicides or exposed other unpleasant chemicals such as roadsides or highly manicured areas. If you can find a nice neglected piece of grass there will likely be good dandelions in there, and tall grass forces the dandelions to grow much larger leaves to get at the sunlight.
1 cup flour
1 cup seltzer water
2 cups dandelion flowers
Vegetable oil for frying
Powdered Sugar or Cinnamon Sugar to dust
Pick dandelion flowers as close to cooking time as possible. Try to get as little of the green in there as possible, as it has a bitter flavor.
Make your batter by mixing the flour and seltzer water until smooth.
Heat a small pot with a couple inches of vegetable or peanut oil to 350 degrees.
Dip the flowers into the batter one at a time and drop them into the hot oil. Keep adding them until the pot is full but not too crowded. This tempura batter does not brown, so simply allow them to fry for about a minute or until they feel crunchy when poked with a spoon. Remove them to a plate covered in paper towels to drain.
When you are done frying, dust the fritters liberally with cinnamon sugar.