Traditionally, dandelion leaves are eaten as a spring tonic, to gently cleanse the body with the change of seasons, but they are also edible in summer and fall.
The first rule of thumb when foraging for anything wild is to take the utmost care to ensuring that the plant is free from pesticides and chemicals. As dandelions are considered an evil scourge by those who know no better, steps are often utilized early on to eradicate them via weedkillers. Harvest dandelions only from those areas that you know to be free from any chemical toxicity.
As well, the milk contained within the stem is very bitter, so be sure when picking the flowers to snip them above the stem. Rinse the flowers thoroughly before using in any recipe.
When to Gather Dandelions
Opinions vary, but mid to late afternoon is best, as is collecting on sunny days when possible, which produces a drier, fluffier flower. Pick only blooms in their golden yellow prime – small buds will make the end result more bitter. Eschew the dried, fluffy white heads. Remember – the entire plant can be used for other medicinal tinctures and teas.