The scientific name for dandelions is Taraxacum officinale. When you see the word, officinale in a name, it means the plant has been prized for its medicinal properties. In this case, the roots, flowers and "dandelion greens" not only have medicinal uses, but also culinary uses. The greens are, in fact, quite nutritious. All of which may make some readers receptive to an approach to dandelions that differs markedly from that explored on Page 1.
On Page 1 we considered how to get rid of dandelions. But before expending energy on eradication efforts, perhaps a more fundamental question needs to be asked first: Should we get rid of the dandelions in our lawns? How you answer that question depends on your aesthetic tastes.
The war on lawn weeds in general -- not just dandelions -- is based on the notion that "the lawn is meant to showcase the diligence of the person who owns it," as I remark in my brief History of Lawn Mowers. According to this view, lawns should be uniformly composed of grass, with no "intruders" permitted. Clover in lawns, e.g., is persecuted as a weed, even though clover, in many ways, is superior to grass as a lawn plant.
But others would argue that dandelions bear rather attractive flowers, whose yellow hue complements a green lawn nicely. "While the flower isn't bad," perhaps you object, "the seed head that succeeds it is unsightly." Even so, there are easy ways to minimize the impact of dandelions on the lawn, as long as you're willing to show some tolerance toward their presence. One way is to pluck the flowers as they appear. Another is to eat your weed problems away!
All parts of the dandelion are edible:
- Dandelion root can be roasted as a coffee-substitute, or boiled and stir-fried as a cooked vegetable.
- Dandelion flower can be made into a wine, or boiled and stir-fried as a cooked vegetable.
- Dandelion greens (i.e., the leaves) can be boiled, as you would spinach, and used as a cooked vegetable, in sandwiches or as a salad green with some "bite." Consult recipes for dandelion greens for ideas. About's Guide to Low Carb Diets discusses how to cook greens.
Of the 3 parts of the plant, the leaves are the most widely used. For those curious about the proposition of "eating their weed problems away," I'd suggest focusing only on the dandelion leaves at first. Experiment! I'm not asking you to become a Ewell Gibbons overnight. And you can continue (half-heartedly, to be sure!) trying to get rid of dandelions while you're at it, just in case you decide to give up this more tolerant approach to dandelions.
That is, even if you wish to harvest only the dandelion greens, you can still work, at the same time, on controlling the dandelions in your lawn, so that fewer will go to seed. When you're harvesting the dandelion leaves, pull up a good chunk of root, while you're at it. You don't have to fuss over it, the way I instructed you on Page 1, because the objective is now different: we're not aiming for the total eradication of dandelions, we're just trying to slow down their growth, thereby hindering seed production. The dandelion plant may still recover (regeneration can occur from the slightest bit of root remaining), but it won't be able to reproduce for a while. Bring the dandelion leaves inside for washing and dispose of the portion of root you extracted.
Getting Rid of Dandelions the Smart Way: Harvesting Dandelion Greens
Why is harvesting dandelion greens in this fashion the smart way of solving the problem of getting rid of dandelions? Because it allows you to kill two birds with one stone. Getting rid of dandelions (or even just hindering their seed production) means work. By my reckoning, if you can derive something from such work that saves you money, then you're that much further ahead.
And harvesting dandelion greens can save money. They're high in vitamins A and C, and iron. Why pay extra at the store to purchase foods with similar (or, often, inferior) nutritional value, when you have a free source in your yard? Just avoid harvesting near roads, since road salt and/or toxins may be present. Likewise, you obviously shouldn't harvest from a lawn where herbicides have been used.
But what about the taste, you ask? Dandelion greens taste like other salad greens with a "bite," such as chicory and escarole. And how you go about harvesting and cooking them also plays a role in the taste. You should harvest dandelion greens in early spring, before the flowers appear. That's when they're the tenderest and least bitter. After the first frost in fall is another time when dandelion greens aren't so bitter. Boiling them will further reduce their bitterness.
Does the thought of tolerating the presence of dandelions in your lawn leave a bitter taste in your mouth? If so, the approaches outlined on Page 1 will be more suited to your tastes. But if you give harvesting dandelion greens a try, you just might end up being glad that dandelions are so darned hard to get rid of.