You’ve heard of turning lemons into lemonade, what about turning a lawn weed into a side dish or beverage? When it comes to the dandelion, you can do just that.
Not only is this a practical solution to dealing with your weedy lawn, but it's nutritious too. Dandelion greens provide more vitamin A than carrots. They're also great sources of vitamin K, calcium, and potassium.
Dandelions—or Taraxacum officinale—are herbs that can be eaten raw in salads or cooked like greens. You can sample a leaf next time you go outside as long as your lawn isn’t treated with pesticides, herbicides, or visited by pets.
The gardener in my neighborhood, Jane Cleary, enjoys sauteeing the flowers. “They taste like clams,” she said, “only better and less fishy.”
Her technique is to pull the flower off the stem at the base, leaving enough green so the blossom doesn't fall apart. After cleaning the flower, she dips it in egg yolk, then bread crumbs, and sautees it in olive oil on each side for three minutes.
My neighbor has plenty of company. According to the New York Times, dandelions are used as a food and natural remedy around the world. (The New York Times is a great source for dandelion recipes!)
Because the leaves can be tough, cut them into thin ribbons before adding them to salads. If you want to eat the root, boil it twice before serving it like a veggie. You can also make dandelion "coffee" by grinding and roasting the roots.
Gardener Cleary makes dandelion tea by boiling the roots and flowers and then letting them steep for 10 minutes. She adds a bit of honey and says the brew isn't bitter at all. She likens its taste to chamomile tea.
Grow Your Own
If you enjoy growing and using your own herbs, dandelions grown from seed are less bitter than wild ones. Pick a sunny space in rich soil and give them a lot of room or they will crowd your other herbs. Optimum time for picking (wild or cultivated) is early spring.
While the dandelion is generally considered safe as a food, pregnant or breastfeeding women should avoid it as should people with ragweed or related plant allergies (chrysanthemums, daisies, marigolds). For some, dandelions will cause a reaction when ingested or via skin contact.
The next time you’re digging those "pesky weeds" out of your lawn, pile them high, and remember all the ways you can use them in your kitchen!
"Dandelion: The Accidental Vegetable" by Jace Mortensen, www.drweil.com