Unappreciated Dandelions

April 16, 2007

I recently wrote about the worth of Chickweed, an unpopular but edible weed that is commonly found growing in lawns and gardens.

Today’s post examines another universally despised weed; the Dandelion. If you can look beyond its tarnished reputation spring is the perfect time to enjoy a batch of fresh dandelion greens.

Dandelion’s Rap Sheet

dandelion leaves.thumbnail Unappreciated DandelionsI know, I know, this is going to be a hard sell, especially considering all of the effort and expense that many homeowners and gardeners put into ridding their lawns of this unsightly weed. But dandelions really have gotten a bad rap from the gardening community.

Sure, they can ruin the appearance of a manicured lawn, and multiply faster than rabbits. A true survivalist, dandelions will even hunker down as the lawn mower passes over and spring back up after the mowing is finished so that the next day it looks as though you haven’t cut the grass for weeks.

And you won’t score any points with your neighbors by being the renegade gardener who doesn’t apply herbicides and sends fluffy white tufts of dandelion seeds floating all over the neighborhood. But there are a few privileges associated with having a supply of edible dandelion weeds growing in your landscape.

“Why Can’t Weeds Be Friends”

I admit to maintaining a “natural” lawn complete with its share of the despised dandelions. They can be annoying at times, but are on their worst behavior for only a few weeks of the year when they are flowering and producing seed. The rest of the time you’d hardly notice that they were there.

My lawn has grasses, clover, violets, plantain, and an assortment of plants growing happily right alongside of the dandelions. One thing’s for sure, this lawn will never be bare, brown, or lacking a plant or two that could be tossed into the salad bowl.

I also confess to harboring an occasional misfit dandelion right in the midst of the vegetable garden. I do keep a close eye on any dandelions growing in the garden to ensure confinement, and to prevent them from setting seed, or escaping their fate in the kitchen.

Organic Dandelion Weed Controls

If you’re not as accommodating and would like to do away with the majority of dandelions growing in your yard, there is an organic fertilizer and pre-emergent weed control sold by Garden’s Alive called WOW Supreme that can be spread to control dandelions and other broadleaf weeds without the application of hazardous chemicals.

I remember the days when the standard method to eliminate dandelions from the lawn was to dig the plant up, being careful to remove as much of the plant’s root system as possible. If you go to that trouble to harvest your crop of organic dandelions you may as well cart them off to the kitchen for dinner.

I have to admit that dandelions are far from my favorite edible weed as I’d much prefer a plate of delicious steamed Lambs Quarters, but I do eat an occasional dandelion for the reputed health benefits and rich nutrients that they supply to the diet.

Enjoying Edible Dandelion Greens

dandelion flower.thumbnail Unappreciated DandelionsRather than steaming or boiling a batch of the dandelion greens, I add the young leaves sparingly to salads or blender drinks. Dandelions have a strong, sometimes bitter flavor that some enjoy more than others so adjust their usage to suit your own taste buds.

Dandelion flower stems are the bitterest part of the plant, but they are none the less edible and are sometimes recommended in moderation for specific health ailments. While dandelion flowers are edible, they would never make it onto anyone’s list of favorite edible flowers.

Dandelion roots are often chopped and roasted to create a healthy coffee-like, hot beverage. So it seems like every part of this dreaded weed is actually useful and edible, but the usual warnings apply:

  • be certain of the identification of any wild plant before you use it,
  • don’t harvest edible plants from areas that may have been exposed to pollution or chemical sprays,
  • and be alert to allergies and food sensitivities that you or others may have to a particular edible weed or wild plant.




Other Related Vegetable Gardening Posts:

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Steve May 10, 2007 at 12:36 pm

Dear Kenny,

Thanks for your thoughtful page on dandelions.
We are looking for bulk seed suppliers so we
can send dandelions worldwide to starving children and refugees etc. They just need standard seed labels like other veggies. Any ideas?

Thanks
Steve

amy May 18, 2007 at 2:35 am

steve,
wonderful idea!!!!!
i have no suggestions but i want to hear the answer.
kenny thanks for the info!

David July 15, 2007 at 6:23 pm

I own a pet bearded dragons and one of his favorite foods is dandelions and it is just as well because he needs lots of calcium and gets it from these so called useless weeds. So my dragon thanks you for bringing this to light :)

BJ_BOBBI_JO August 7, 2007 at 3:56 pm

Dandelion flowers can taste somewhat like morel mushrooms if cooked right.

We soak the dandelion flowers in salt water then rinse them. Then I batter them and fry them up. When I can not find morels or can not afford them then dendlion flowers are what I eat to replace the longing for the morel taste.

steve May 30, 2009 at 4:11 am

hi,

well i have these things growing every where in my lawn. i never water it or look after it. i have seen these things before but never knew you could eat them. i tried them and found them nice, then i found this site. did you say they are spring thing? well here its just about winter here in australia.
amazing what grows so well for free.

Jeff Levengood August 6, 2009 at 5:10 pm

My grandparents ate ddln greens w/ hot bacon dressing every spring. I remember my great uncle saying that he picked and sold them by the sackful during the depression. If you have dogs be careful about eating uncooked greens from the lawn!

elise January 8, 2010 at 5:39 pm

I find your site very helpful, I was searching for info on what to feed my Sulcata Tortoise and this was reccommended on a few sites, I am glad you have pics of what it looks like, thank you! :)

Phillip Bimstein August 22, 2010 at 8:26 am

To Jeff Levengood:

Dear Jeff,

I just read a year-old comment left on a Veggie Gardening blog by you concerning selling dandelions during the depression:

Jeff Levengood August 6, 2009 at 5:10 pm
My grandparents ate ddln greens w/ hot bacon dressing every spring. I remember my great uncle saying that he picked and sold them by the sackful during the depression. If you have dogs be careful about eating uncooked greens from the lawn!

~~~~~~

I am a composer writing songs based on letters written during the depression, and one song I am writing is called Dandelion, or Dandelions and Pencils (as I read that some folks also sold pencils). I am seeking additional information about how they were collected and sold, and I wonder if you recall anything else your grandparents or great uncle may have told you.

For example, how much they sold for. Right now I’m saying something like 5 or 10 cents a bag (or I might change to a sack, based on your comment), but that’s just guess, based on the economic conditions then. And were they sold in a sack, or just handed to the buyer in a clump? And how were they carried around by the seller, or where they sold at a roadside stand? Did they go door-to-door?

And how were they collected? Just wild from the countryside? Or could you collect them in the city?

I’d also be curious how they were prepared and eaten, and whether they were a staple. Were they eaten by all people at all economic levels—by rich, middle class, and poor?

I realize you may not know any of this, but if you do it could be very helpful to my song. I will be very grateful for any information, even just a guess. Or if anyone else reading this knows anything, please let me know!

Thank you very much,

Phillip Bimstein

mik March 28, 2011 at 10:50 pm

Finely chop dandelion leaves and onion or shallots. Add cider vinegar and olive oil and salt, let stand then eat. Great salad with a pasta dish.

Rose Plummer May 30, 2011 at 1:56 pm

My kids love the blooms battered and fried up. We haven’t tried the greens yet and is there a recipe for roasting the roots for coffee?

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