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Dandelions in the lawn: Don't spray them, eat them.

Why go to all the trouble of spraying dandelions in the lawn when you can use the greens in delicious recipes?

By Christopher Weber / July 19, 2011

Although some people consider dandelions to be pesky weed lawns, others use the greens in cooking.

Courtesy of Jenny McGruther of Nourished Kitchen website

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I hold this truth to be self-evident: People take their lawns way too seriously.

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Every summer, millions of Americans -- including more than a few otherwise sensible folks who drive hybrid cars, grow their own food, and generally love the planet -- decide to carpet-bomb their yards with herbicides at the first pale flicker of a dandelion.

As a gardener, I know of lots of more interesting plants to grow than dandelions. But by the same token, are these little weeds so horrible? Are they really worth the time, expense, and nasty chemicals involved in driving them from our lawns?

A tasty solution

Just as Jonathan Swift famously suggested that the solution to poverty in Britain was to eat the poor, I propose that the solution to dandelions in the lawn is to eat the weed.

Eating one’s enemy is not easy, especially on the first try. My wife won’t let me forget a failed attempt at dandelion wine; we spent half a day picking dandelion blossoms, but I never got around to making the wine. The blossoms sat sadly in our freezer for months.

Dandelion greens offer a much quicker payoff. I polled friends for the best recipes.

Recipe ideas

Italian dishes topped the suggestions. My pal Julia in Oakland, Calif., wrote that she used locally sourced dandelion greens when she worked at Pauline’s Pizza in San Francisco.

“We used to grow them specifically for salad and as a pizza topping. Delish!"

Corinna, a excellent cook in Martha’s Vineyard, Mass., had a particular salad in mind: “We usually just make a simple salad, with oil and vinegar dressing, sea salt, shaved red onion and sliced hard boiled eggs. Very traditional Italian salad, super yummy!”

Someone also forwarded me a tangy recipe for wilted dandelion greens with toasted mustard seed. . It came from the website “Nourished Kitchen,” the brainchild of Jenny McGruther (who gave us permission to use her photo of the greens).

Writes Ms. McGruther, “One cup of chopped cooked dandelion greens contains about 15% of the daily value for calcium, 10% for iron and 32% for vitamin C.”

The cooks I contacted emphasized two precepts above all in preparing dandelions:

  1. Pick your dandelion greens in an area that you know for certain has not been sprayed with herbicides. Even the most humble will enjoy these greens more sans Roundup.
  2. Pick ‘em before they go to seed. Just as other greens, dandelions turn bitter after the fuzzy heads appear. And picking them before flowering will also help to keep the plants from reproducing elsewhere in your yard.

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Christopher Weber is a journalist and work-at-home dad in Chicago. He has written about gardening for the Chicago Tribune and taught it at a local school. His current favorite vegetable to grow is Brussels sprouts. You can find more information about him, including articles and blogs, at christopherweber.org. To read more by Christopher at Diggin' It, click here.

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