Dandelion hunting in Alaska; the secret, useful nature of an unruly weed

Published: Jun. 12, 2018 at 12:49 PM AKDT
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Dandelions can be found everywhere in Alaska. Not only here, but the flexible plant is on every continent except Antarctica.

While many think of these weeds as annoying and invasive—which they are—the dandelion has many uses that often don’t get taken advantage of.

“I think they're really a fascinating plant,” said Laura Sampson, author of the Little House, Big Alaska blog. “They are all around the world. People eat them in Europe, eat the greens. They're a fantastic tasty dish you can make a lot of stuff out of them.”

Sampson didn’t always look at dandelions in a favorable light. “I used to be anti-dandelion and then I realized I was never going to win that war,” Sampson said. “So I decided to kind of flip my thinking a little bit and I decided instead of fighting them, I would simply start eating them.

"Once I started eating them and realized I could put jelly in my pantry, and tea in my pantry, and pesto, I realized there were so many uses and there weren't enough dandelions.” The recipe for dandelion pesto

Additionally, it’s not just humans that can get the benefit from these plants.

“There's a lot more good to them than there are bad things,” says Steve Brown, Professor of Agriculture Extension. “One of the biggest benefits is they're an early source of food for bees.”

Beyond that, Brown says dandelions can help the soil. “Actually one of the benefits of dandelions is they bring up nutrients from deeper in the soil and when they die and decompose, they are essentially fertilizing your lawn for you,” says Brown.

With so many potential benefits, the question arises of why more people aren't using dandelions.

“We just don't think of foraging in general as a way to get food,” says Sampson. “But it's free. This is free, in your garden food or in your yard.”

As a note for safety, Sampson recommends staying away from areas with lots of foot traffic if you're going to pick and eat the greens.