Every spring I watch my green lawn turn into a beautiful yellow field and I despair. Dandelions seem to be the only thing I can grow. They are definitely tenacious and there is no question that, in my little war with nature, they are winning. This year it occurred to me that perhaps it is a matter of perspective. The flowers are beautiful, the seeds entertaining, and the whole plant is highly nutritious. That is the fact that caught my attention. Here I have an excellent source of food growing in my lawn, requiring absolutely no effort on my part to grow, and I am complaining. What I required was a shift in my thinking. I needed to stop thinking of dandelions as “weeds” and start thinking of them as vegetables.
Nutrient dense dandelions are an excellent source of beta-carotene. They are also rich in fiber, potassium, iron, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and the B vitamins thiamine and riboflavin. The whole plant is edible from the flowers to the roots. They are somewhat bitter (bitter foods are great for your liver) and it is recommended that you harvest the leaves before the plant flowers to minimize the bitterness. However, my neighbor, who has eaten dandelion greens for years, soaks the older leaves for a few hours and claims that this tames the bitterness.
So, when the snow had melted, I anxiously awaited the sight of those little yellow menaces—I mean, gems. They were slow coming, but finally, inevitably, there they were. Out I went with my knife and my bag and I came away with a bountiful harvest in about 5 minutes. I started using the greens in salads and dishes just as I would use kale and they were delicious! The flowers I picked, and used the petals in cookies. My despair was gone (though I still wish they weren’t in my lawn), replaced by excitement to learn how to use this great vegetable. It makes me wonder what other prejudices I have that simply need a change of perspective.
½ cup vegetable oil
½ cup honey
1 tsp. vanilla
1 to 2 cups flour
1 cup rolled oats
½ cup dandelion flowers
½ tsp. nutmeg
Combine oil, honey, eggs and vanilla and mix well. Add flour (start with one cup and then add more until the dough has a texture similar to oatmeal cookies), oats and dandelion flowers. Drop spoonful on a lightly greased cookie sheet and bake at 375 for 10-15 minutes.
When harvesting dandelions be careful to avoid places where fertilizers or herbicides may have been used and don’t pick those that grow beside roads and parking lots. Dandelions have long been used in pharmaceuticals and they have many health benefits that I will not address here. There is a wealth of information available online if you are interested in further study. If you are taking medications, please use caution when incorporating any new food into your diet.