Wild About - Dandelion Buds

Did you know that every part of the dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) is edible (so long as no dogs have watered it)? Ok, sure, you've eaten dandelion greens; they're so 90's. And your gran used to brew dandelion wine. Maybe you've even had dandelion root tea. But have you ever tried eating the buds? Yep, they're flavorsome, too.

If you'd like to eat dandelion buds, collect those which are tightly closed. Look at the base of the plant, and closer to the ground for the newly emerged buds, which look like little buttons.

Dandelion buds are good when fried (bacon grease or butter, tough call), tasting of bitter greens with a strong floral note. But they can be used in just about any application in which you'd use a green vegetable - quiche, soups, curries; go ahead and get creative.

So, last week, I was looking at my harvest of dandelion buds when it struck me how closely they resembled capers. Ah-ha, I've never tried pickling them before! I know that great culturing adventurer, Sandor Katz, would approve of my little experiment.

I prepared the buds by stripping off their sepals, cutting off any brown or bruised spots, and washing them. I placed the buds into a sterilized jar, along with a clove of garlic, a few juniper berries, and some pink peppercorns. Next, I covered them completely with salt water, using Katz's ratio of 3/4 Tbsp. sea salt to 1 c. nonchlorinated water. The next step was to place a small sterilized glass bowl into the opening of the jar, to keep all the buds submerged under the salt water (you can also use a plastic bag filled with the brine). This sat on the counter for five days before I thought they tasted nice and zingy. So, I put a lid on them and popped 'em into the fridge.

The juniper berries make the little buds taste very close to actual capers - piney and salty and tangy. They're a wonderful condiment.

Do you want to cook something else with dandelions, the fantastic free foraged food? Then check out my recipe for fried dandelion blossoms. Fried food, yummy!

This post appears as a part of Real Food Wednesday. Click on over there and find more recipes and tips by people who stock their kitchens with real, traditional foods.


  1. This is so awesome! I love capers, but they're generally imported. I was making olive paste with them yesterday and I got to thinking, "I wonder what could be used instead, something I could make myself?" I've heard that nasturtium buds or maybe seeds can be used to make "poor man's capers," but those aren't as readily accessible as dandelions. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  2. I love this idea! We've made dandelion flower fritters and sauteed dandelion greens, and this sounds like a fun thing to try making. Thanks!

  3. This was definitely a fun experiment. It makes me wonder what else I can pickle, which I hadn't thought to culture before.

    Sandor Katz also uses young milkweed buds to make capers. I might try that. Unfortunately, the milkweeds are just barely poking out of the ground, so it may be a while. But I'm positively surrounded by dandies, so I think I'll make another batch. I only filled a 4 oz. jar this time around, since I was making the recipe up as I went along, and had no idea how it would turn out.

  4. Are the juniper berries you're using from regular ornamental juniper bushes in residential yards?

  5. Hi Juliana - I use juniper berries that I find in the mountains on creeping juniper (juniperus horizontalis). That plant has the finest, sweetest, most complex juniper berries. They are so delicious.

  6. http://hungerandthirstforlife.blogspot.com/2010/10/wild-about-juniper-berries-juniper.html

  7. This is just strange enough that I want to try it. I'm not afraid of dandelions killing me.

    1. Dandelion is an excellent plant for novice foragers. Plus, this recipe just tastes great!


Post a Comment

Popular Posts