This is a great question! Let’s first clarify what it means for dandelions to “go to seed”. You probably recognize dandelions as the bright yellow flower that appears in lawns and along the road every Spring. You’re probably also familiar with the “wish flowers” that come a bit later. These “wish flowers” are the puff balls that when you blow on them, all their puffy pieces take off into the air and float away. These are both the same plant! Yup, the puffy “wish flowers” are dandelions that have lost their petals and replaced them with dandelion seeds. The seeds are spread when we blow them or when a breeze kicks up and carries them away. This is how dandelions spread and perpetuate themselves.
Dandelions have great medicinal properties in their roots, leaves, and flowers. They can be used to treat and relieve a variety of ailments and issues. Dandelion flowers specifically can be used internally, such as in a tea, or externally. Because the flowers will turn into seeds, it can be difficult to harvest and dry them.
Thankfully, we were able to harvest and dry about 114 dandelion flowers this season! While we can’t say exactly why or how our approach to drying them worked, here is the process we followed:
- We dug whole dandelion plants (roots, leaves, and flowers) from our own private property in Southern New Hampshire and washed them in one piece to remove dirt, dead leaves, and any critters that might have come along for the ride. (Note: It is important to know the conditions and possible fertilizer/pesticide exposure of what you forage, especially if you are going to be using it internally.)
- Once everything was clean (this took quite a while), we took on the task of deciding what would happen to the plants. Some of the dandelion leaves would be eaten fresh in a salad while others would be bunched and dried. The roots were all left connected and would dry with the leaves they were attached to. The flowers, which were in different stages of blooming, would either be left intact with the leaves and roots to dry or snipped off to dry separately.
- The flowers that were mostly or entirely opened were removed with about ¾ of an inch of stem remaining. They were carefully arranged and inverted on an old window screen and left for about a week or so.
- The remaining attached flowers, leaves, and roots were bunched and hung to dry indoors with limited sun exposure.
- The flowers that were removed and inverted all dried beautifully; none went to seed! Of the flowers that were left bunched with the leaves and roots, all went to seed (and made a mess in our kitchen).
We can’t say exactly how or why this worked, but for us this year, it did. We’ll try this same process again next year and hopefully we will have the same results!