Reap the Benefits of Dandelion Greens

For many, harvesting wild dandelion greens is a beloved springtime ritual. Learn how to use dandelions and enjoy the health benefits of dandelion greens in a variety of ways.


| April/May 2008



Dandelion

Served raw in a salad, dandelion greens pack a nutritional punch.


Photo by Roger Doiron

I’m going wild again, just like I did last year. My suburban wildness — if such a thing is possible — centers on a simple spring ritual that starts in mid-April and continues through mid-May: harvesting dandelion greens at their young and tender best.

For my neighbors who watch the spectacle, I suspect it’s a curiosity the likes of which most folks don’t see anymore: a grown man crawling around on the ground on his hands and knees with a sharp knife in one hand and a colander in the other. Although wild dandelion greens can be found throughout my yard, I’ve discovered that the best ones grow in the wildest of places, safe from the punishing foot traffic of my three boys and the whir of the lawn mower blade.

The wildest spot in my yard is behind our house under the protective canopy of 50-foot pines. The trees were planted years ago as a natural border between my yard and our neighbor’s. As they’ve grown, they’ve created a fringe forest ecosystem. The soil there is particularly rich due to the accumulation and decomposition of pine needles and windswept autumn leaves. Just enough sunlight passes through for dandelions and other opportunistic plants to thrive. 

Although these wild dandelion greens are only 30 yards from my back door, my path to discovering them was not so direct. In fact, it veered off course by about 3,000 miles to the east. I learned the pleasures of eating dandelion salads in Europe from my Belgian mother-in-law, known as “Mami” by my sons. Mami grew up on a small family farm in the foothills of the Ardennes mountain range. Although the nearby battles of World War II were over by the time she was born, the wartime thrift mentality held fast in Europe throughout her childhood. The thinking was that if the land was prepared to offer up free food in the form of salad greens, mushrooms and berries, one would be silly to refuse.

Embraced throughout human history and across cultures and cuisines, the dandelion has been cast as public enemy No. 1 in postwar, suburban America. An estimated 80 million pounds of pesticides are used each year on home lawns to eradicate them. Yet each year, the scrappy plant returns, thumbing its sunny yellow nose.

streborkb
1/16/2016 3:14:34 PM

nospringchicken - Having worked "in the industry" I can tell you that 'pesticide' is a correct term as used. Herbicide, rodenticide, fungicide, insecticide (the REAL 'proper' term for 'bug killer'), etc are ALL considered part of the larger/broader term 'pesticide'. The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (part of the gov't NIH) defines it as such, "A pesticide is any substance used to kill, repel, or control certain forms of plant or animal life that are considered to be pests." Killing ANY "pest" is PEST-icide. The author need only delete YOUR comment to appear "more credible". "If I were you" I'd REQUEST this from the author in order to salvage YOUR credibility ;)


nospringchicken
4/27/2014 11:52:17 AM

Just so you know: it's herbicides for weeds, not pesticides. Those are for bugs. If I were you, I would correct this error and delete my comment so you appear more credible.


weedman
2/11/2014 4:31:29 PM

Dandelions are an indicator that the available calcium in the soil has leached out. They may also indicate that excess potash or magnesium is suppressing the available calcium. Soil pH is not necessarily an indicator of available calcium because many other factors can change it. Several years ago I sprayed a mix on the lawn that caused most of the dandelions to disappear. Excess rain left this lawn under water for a week. The next spring the dandelions can back. I needed to balance the soil again.


shirley in nc_2
4/18/2009 3:23:19 PM

I read somewhere that mankind calls dandelions weeds because the just haven't learned to grow in rows. I love them myself and planted many. Now that I had to have my hips replaced I started some in containers and raised beds for easlier harvesting.






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