The top of a dandelion’s taproot, its heart or crown, is a tasty nibble that, while money can’t buy, is free for the taking. In texture, color, and taste dandelion hearts are reminiscent of the base or heart of a head of celery, only with a light bitter-sweet dandelion essence. Adorning the crown are pearl-sized nascent buds, which make a creamy smooth nibble. Once the buds become as large as a thumbnail, they’re less toothsome and so not used.
Look close and you can see three “crowns” with their jade colored buds that sit atop the tap root and have the most tender leaves. Every spring, I feast upon these succulent hearts and “jewels.” It’s a treat that money can’t buy.
In March (in temperate regions) when dandelions start setting leaf, but before their characteristic yellow blossoms appear, grab a small paring knife or a sturdy spoon and forage from an environmentally clean area. Find a cluster of dandelion greens and carve a cone-shaped piece of the crown right from the center of their leafy rosette, leaving the root (and most of the dirt) still in the ground.
Slice the hearts, add it to your soup or stir-fry, and cook for a few minutes or until tender. Then add the buds along with the greens for the last minute or two of cooking. Be forewarned: Once you try dandelion hearts and buds, odds are you’ll have acquired a new springtime ritual.