As a Master Gardener, I'm often asked what to do about dandelions in my lawn or garden. I reply: Eat them, of course!
Dandelions are a superfood -?nutrient dense and calorie sparse. That means they have more nutrients than many other things we eat. Cup for cup, dandelion greens have as much calcium as milk. They have more iron than spinach, and more beta-carotene than carrots and as much potassium as a banana. They're also a rich source of vitamins A, B, C, E and K, and the minerals copper, magnesium, manganese and phosphorus.
Its medicinal qualities have been part of folk medicine for millennia. The roots and leaves of dandelion have been used medicinally to treat digestive problems like constipation, diarrhea, stomach pain and weak digestion. They've also been used for liver, gallbladder and kidney problems, anemia, acne, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes.
Modern science is confirming traditional herbal medicine. Dandelion is a major ingredient in liver cleanse formulas. The herb helps to break down fats and stimulates the flow of bile from the liver to the gallbladder. It's important to kidney health as a diuretic. Recent scientific studies are testing dandelion's effects in suppressing the invasive growth of several types of cancer. The International Journal of Oncology published a clinical study showing the positive effects of dandelion leaf tea on breast cancer cells.
And all parts are edible - you just have to know how to prepare them. The roots can be roasted and ground for a hot beverage (tea or ersatz coffee), greens can be added to salads or cooked like spinach, flower petals make great wine, syrup and jelly.
In April when my frozen and stored goodies are mostly out and the larder is empty I look forward to the first green showing right after the snow melted. Those new little leaves are dandelions; at this young, tender stage they have not yet developed their slightly bitter taste. They are great in early spring salads.
In late April and early May, I'm on a dandelions diet. I eat them in salads, in quiches and frittatas, sauted with sausage, fried into fritters, added to spring soups and casseroles. After they have blossomed and the greens get older and tougher, the bright yellow flowers can be made into delicious fritters or pancakes.
Our ancestors weren't stupid when they brought dandelions from the old country as food crop -?not by mistake as many people think. So enjoy spring's bright flavors and colors: green and sunshine yellow.