Eat Your Yard: Dandelion Greens

dandelions

Killing yard weeds has all but become a family tradition. It's one of those things hubby likes to wage war against, along with pesky squirrels and overly-ambitious deer. It may be hard to look past these weeds, which is fine, but now comes the time to rethink the way you take care of your lawn. We've trained our brains over the course of many years to only trust produce from the produce section. But would it be so weird to think that there are nutritious flowers and edible greens growing right out your front door?

Recognize a friend when you see one, because dandelion greens (and their yellow flowers) contain a wealth of iron, calcium, zinc, potassium, vitamins and more beta-carotene than carrots. The bittersweet flowers flow rich with antioxidants. Every part of this plant can be used as food or for medicinal purposes. A study done in 2010 shows that the dandelion root may even help kill malignant melanoma cells, without damaging healthy cells.

Fun fact: The dandelion was carefully chosen by European settlers to bring to the new world for medicinal use.

dandelion greens

The greens themselves are quite bitter. Actually, very bitter. Cultivated dandelion greens in supermarkets will be less bitter than ones you forage for yourself. They are best harvested when the greens are young and tender, usually from April through May, although you can enjoy them year-round if you know where to look. But before you head out and start yanking handfuls of leaves from the ground, read Steve Brill's article on foraging safely. Foraging safely means knowing if the area has been chemically treated or if dogs frequent the area. As always, wash your greens thoroughly before using them an any recipe.

Swap your iceburg lettuce for dandelion greens, or add only a few of them to your next summer salad. If the raw, bitter greens don't appeal to you, steam them, sauté them with garlic and onion, or use in any cooked recipe as you would kale or spinach. The yellow flowers can be breaded and fried like a fritter, or used to make dandelion wine. In these forms, dandelions can support your body in digestion, reduce inflammation and aid in treating some diseases.

Try swapping the kale for dandelion greens in this sweet potato grilled cheese; you can caramelize the dandelion greens with the onions, or add a few leaves to balance out the sweetness of the potatoes.