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.

  • dandelion salad
    Served raw in a salad, dandelion greens pack a nutritional punch.
    Photo by Roger Doiron
  • dandelion
    Spring is the season for wild dandelion hunting.
    Photo courtesy Plantstock
  • dandelion recipes
    Dandelion Mushroom Calzone. Calzone is Italian for “warm, gooey, and wonderful.” OK, not really, but this recipe is!
    Photo by Roger Doiron
  • wild dandelions
    All parts of the dandelion are edible. The trick is simply learning when and how to use each part.
    Photo by David Cavagnaro
  • sauteed dandelion greens
    Simple Sautéed Dandelion Greens. Pure and simple—yes, it’s easy being green!
    Photo by Roger Doiron
  • dandelion greens salad
    Wilted Dandelion Greens Salad. Wilted greens deliciously straddle the line between raw and cooked.
    Photo by Roger Doiron

  • dandelion salad
  • dandelion
  • dandelion recipes
  • wild dandelions
  • sauteed dandelion greens
  • dandelion greens salad

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.

For me, letting my dandelions grow wild and pesticide-free is not just about frugality and ecology, but also gastronomy. Food writers often say that the best foods are those with a sense of time and place. I love these bitter greens as much as I do because I know the ground they come from and appreciate that they only come once a year. They also serve as a useful reminder that good foods are closer than we may think, even as close as our own back yard.

2/4/2020 2:49:06 PM

All my life I've had dandelions to nibble. Except here. I live in an area where they raise pine for harvesting. Can't find one, can't get any to grow, though they grow fine away from the general area I live in. Any ideas why?

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 ;)

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.



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