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
I 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
Rather 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.
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