Thursday, April 8, 2021

Dandelion Salad this Spring

Photo: Peter Hugur
While scheduling lawn aeration this spring, I started thinking about the occasional lawn weeds we get. Dandelions (Taraxacum officinale) are our most frequent visitors and I usually just dig them out. But this year I’m going to try them in a salad. Not only are they edible but they are nutritious. Raw dandelion greens contain high amounts of vitamins A, C, and K, and are moderate sources of calcium, potassium, iron, and manganese. The common name dandelion is French, dent-de-lion, meaning 'lion's tooth' referring to the coarsely toothed leaves.

Dandelions have been used by humans for food and as an herb for much of recorded history. They were well known to ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans, and are recorded to have been used in traditional Chinese medicine for over a thousand years. The plant was used as food and medicine by Native Americans. Dandelions were brought to North America on the Mayflower for their medicinal benefits.

I was surprised to find out that dandelions can be source of rubber. They secrete latex when their tissues are cut and scientists in Germany created a cultivar that can be used for commercial production of latex rubber. The latex produced exhibits the same quality as the natural rubber from rubber trees.

Photo by Hans

The leaves can be bitter, but to get the least bitter leaves, choose plants that have yet to flower. As the plant gets older, it increases in bitterness. Michigan State University Extension has information on five different ways to eat dandelions.  

  • Dandelion green salad
  • Sautéed greens
  • Dandelion fritters
  • Baking with Dandelion petals
  • Dandelion root coffee

Besides their leaves, other parts of the Dandelion are edible. Our Colorado State University Extension has a superb fact sheet about Edible Flowers that include the Dandelion flower. Not only does it list edible flowers, but it has an important list of flowers that are toxic. And remember that it’s important to use dandelions that have not been exposed to chemicals such as fertilizer, herbicides or pesticides.

Photo by Ddimitrova

So when I pick my dandelion leaves this spring, I will also perform the Western tradition of blowing out a dandelion seed head and my wish will be for a delightful garden this year. Bon appetite!