“What is a weed? A plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
The other day, my husband and I were cleaning up a portion of our brick-paved patio where weeds somehow managed to appear. We don’t use poisons or pesticides to get rid of unwanted invaders, leafy or leggy, and so we were trying to pull them by the roots.
While pulling up the many dandelions that were growing between bricks, just as he was ready to scoop the piles of weeds to put them in the trash, I said, “Stop! Don’t throw those away!”
Mr. Johns sighed and gave me the, “Oh boy, here she goes again…” look that I know so well. I gathered up the dandelions and put them in a neat pile, but left the other thorny weeds for the trash.
I’ve known for years that dandelion flowers are edible. A little bitter, but not toxic. How could a plant that not only creates a flower, but makes a puffball for us to make wishes with, not be special?
When my daughter, now 21, turned four years old, we had a garden-themed birthday party and I decorated her pink three-layer-birthday cake with yellow dandelions, nasturtium and pansy flowers we picked from our yard. None of the little girls were brave enough to eat a flower, but they could have and it would’ve been safe.
I remember the first time I saw dandelion greens for sale at a store. Many years ago, we were shopping at Sprouts in San Antonio, and they were sold next to the other leafy greens. Fascinated, I got a big bunch. Yes, I actually paid for a bunch of weeds at the store.
When we got home, I prepared them like spinach or kale… after washing them, I sautéed the greens with a little minced garlic and onion in bacon grease. Peppery and just a tad bitter but not at all unpleasant, we ate our store-bought weeds alongside a big juicy steak and it was delicious. Dandelion greens taste to me like arugula. Young dandelion greens can also be tossed in salads, uncooked.
Dandelions, found in nearly every yard and sidewalk crack on the planet (okay, maybe not every) and lamented by folks trying to keep them out of their lawns, haven’t always been thought of as a nuisance plant.
They’ve been used in herbal medicine for thousands of years, and the benefits of this “nuisance weed” are pretty impressive. Dandelions are incredibly high in antioxidants, and because they are a diuretic, they help cleanse your body of toxins.
One half-cup of dandelions contains more calcium than a glass of milk, and more iron than spinach. One cup of dandelion greens contains 19 mg of Vitamin C, and the leaves contain more Vitamin A than carrots. Dandelion greens contain 55 mg of Vitamin K – that’s 535% of your daily recommended value. Potassium, folic acid, and magnesium are also found in dandelions.
Never harvest dandelions from the roadside or a yard where pesticides and fertilizers have been used. The safest place to pick them is either from your own yard (if you haven’t used fertilizer or pesticides) or from a place you know hasn’t sprayed anything toxic on or near the plants.
You’ll want to pick the youngest leaves, which are on the inside of the plant. The outermost leaves are the oldest and will be the most bitter. The best greens come from dandelions that haven’t produced a yellow flower.
To harvest the leaves, simply pluck them out of the ground. They’ll keep for a day or two in the refrigerator, but are best used as soon as you pick them. There are uses for every part of the dandelion plant, from root to tip.
Get your organic dandelion root for tea at Blue Water Foods in Alpine!
Dandelion Greens with Onions
- 1 pound dandelion greens
- 1/2 cup onion (finely chopped)
- 1 clove garlic (minced)
- 1 whole small dried hot chile pepper (seeds removed, crushed)
- 1/4 cup olive oil (or bacon grease if you have it)
- Salt and black pepper, to taste
- Garnish: Parmesan cheese
Wash greens well in salted water. Cut leaves into 2-inch pieces.
Cook greens in an uncovered saucepan in a small amount of salted water until tender, about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat the oil in a skillet or sauté pan over medium heat. Sauté the onion, garlic, and chile pepper, stirring, until the onion is translucent.
Drain greens thoroughly; add to the onion garlic mixture.
Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
Serve the dandelion greens with grated or shredded Parmesan cheese.
Printed with permission of The Alpine Avalanche