By Lauren Scott, Arizona Farm Bureau Intern
Let me set the stage: It’s a beautiful day outside and you’ve decided to go out and clean up the yard a little bit. Mow the lawn, cut the bushes, pull the weeds, etcetera. Then you see your arch enemy. Dandelions. You grab all the tools in your arsenal to help you rid your yard of the pesky weeds, but before you can pluck the first plant, your neighbor runs over and stops you. Why did they do this you ask? Well they want to inform you of all the goodness that you are missing. Did you know dandelions and their greens are edible?
So salad is not the first thing you think of when you see dandelions, but it should be! Recently dandelion greens have been taking the foodie world by storm with their tastiness and versatility. These greens can be used in anything from smoothies to salads to soups, and much more. Even the flowers are edible and useful.
Compared to other leafy greens, dandelions have some crazy nutritional benefits. They have almost four times as much calcium and twice as much iron as the greens you are using right now; and not only are they packed with just iron and calcium, but vitamins such as manganese, potassium, and riboflavin, too! They also are great for helping out kidney and liver function.
Because the leaves can have a bitter taste, if you buy them from the store it is a good idea to blanch them before you use them. If you are growing and harvesting them yourself, pick the leaves before the flower heads appear. After the flower heads have appeared, the leaves can become very bitter.
Dandelion flowers are just as useful as the leaves. Once the flowers has bloomed, you can pick it and add it to salads, or as a garnish on any dish. They flower can also be steeped in water to create soothing dandelion tea.
If you are looking to grow dandelions for consumption or want to eat the ones out of your yard, make sure no chemicals have been used to treat the area or soil. The plant can soak up the chemicals that have been used and make the plant poisonous and inedible.
If you’re not sure what dish to use dandelion greens in, start out with a simple salad and use half your favorite green and half dandelion greens. Soon you’ll be using them in all kinds of fun dishes!
For more information on dandelion greens, where to get them, and recipes to add them to, check out fillyourplate.org!