False Dandy Balls

Hairy catsear (Hypochoeris radicata), or false dandelions as they are commonly known, originate from Europe. They have certainly made themselves comfortable here in the US though, and are mostly regarded as an invasive or noxious weed. Although they look similar to a common dandelion, you can easily tell the difference between the two through their leaves and flower stalks. Hairy catsear has hairy leaves, unlike common dandelion’s smooth. The common dandelion also has only one flower stalk which is hollow, unlike catsear’s branched flower stalk.

Tender young leaves of catsear have been part of the Mediterranean diet for a very long time, and recent studies have shown the leaves to be high in polyphenols. I haven’t found much information specifically on the edibility of catsear flowers. Many references say the entire plant is edible, but I leave you with a warning that I am not 100% sure. Are the flowers of hairy catsear high in lecithin like those of common dandelion? I don’t know. Also of note is that sap from this plant will stain your hands and clothing. So be prepared.

The video above was a bit unfinished, but the sea swallowed my videorecorder while out beachcombing…so this will be it for videos for awhile. It’s a bummer to lose the camcorder, but I will keep posting photos while figuring out how to replace my $234 machine. Thanks goes out to the Bouwsma’s for their hospitality and encouragement during my stay here in Portland! It’s always nice to share good food with good friends.

The recipe below is adapted from Dr. Peter Gail’s recipe for dandelion burgers. Dr. Gail is widely known as the Dandelion Man, and he has written several books on using dandelions in cooking.

False Dandy Balls

1 c false dandelion/catsear flower petals
1/2 c unbleached white flour
1/4 c onions, finely diced
1 large clove garlic, finely diced
1/4 t dried basil
1/4 t dried oregano
1/4 t dried hot pepper mix
salt & pepper to taste
milk, enough to make stiff batter
oil for frying

Remove false dandelion/catsear petals from flower base by pinching tightly between your thumb and pointer fingers. While applying pressure roll the flower base between your fingers.This allows the petals to fall below. Once you have your false dandelion/catsear petals, mix all ingredients. Add milk until you have a stiff batter. Fry in oil – I like to use grapeseed oil – until golden brown.


  1. sunny says:

    Howdy folks,

    Please leave comments here surrounding the use of catsear. Have you eaten the flowers before? How have you prepared them? Any ways that they may have effected your body? Harvesting tips/etc?

    thanks, ~sunny

  2. sunny says:

    yeah Rebecca! I only had a short time to play around with them. Let us know if you come up with some other yummy ways to use them.

    cheers, ~sunny

  3. allison hull says:

    Until only recently I had been eating these plants as tho they were dandelions. And I am glad to say that all will be well for me. ….apparently it is very bad for horses to eat tho! I chop and roast the roots until the smell of sweet…almost biscuit smell fills the kitchen and then I pound them and add hot water, sugar etc…not quite as strong as dandelion root, very similar flavour. ….I love this above flower recipe, I’ll get the kids to help me with this one tomorrow! Here’s a GREAT one to do with the leaves. “(false)Dandelion Italiano”
    choose big healthy “messes” of leaves (I allow mine their place in my vegie gardens where they grow large & soft)
    ..anyway, wash thoroughly separate the individual leaves, and chop into 1cm lengths.
    boil until the water is yellowey, strain repeat.
    Once strained the 2nd time add oil, finely chopped garlic, a bit of salt and pepper and stir on high until the garlic begins to burn, then remove from heat and add balsamic vinegar to taste.
    This is an awesome garnish for pasta, quiche (wild weed quiche of course 😉 …..and well anything else really! …hmm…maybe with cheese on toast….. lol

    oh, and more info on the plant: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catsear

  4. Changguo Tang says:

    Hi, Seeing in your article: “The common dandelion also has only one flower stalk”, I thought the greens I just collected must not be dandelion but catsear since they have multiple flower stalks. After more searching and reading, I found conflict information. In particular, in wikipedia.org about dandelion, it says ”
    A rosette may produce several flowering stems” and “dandelion flowers are borne singly on unbranched … stems, while catsear flowering stems are branched” So, I now believe that dandelions CAN have multiple stalks, but unbranched, not a single stalk. Am I right? Thank you.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *