I don’t get it. Why does everybody have a problem with dandelions? They are the preferred villain in herbicide commercials, and lawn professionals rank them as public enemy No. 1.
I may not understand this because I’ve never had a manicured lawn. What many folks call weeds I just call grass. I like the hodge-podge of different flowers that pop up in my yard, starting with the trout lily in late winter to the golden rod that ushers in autumn.
Dandelions are like the coyotes of the plant world. No matter what measures are used to exterminate them, they just seem to come back stronger. You’ve got to admire that kind of pluck in a plant. They are the ultimate survivors.
They don’t even need a partner to reproduce. One plant has both male and female equipment and the process they use for seed dispersal is genius. No telling how many yards have been seeded by 7-year-old kids making wishes.
It’s not just seed dispersal that’s impressive. When the seed germinates, it shoots a taproot down. The taproot can be up to 10 inches long, twisted and brittle as dry twig. Most attempts at root removal will result in a broken root and guess what — a broken root leads to more dandelions.
Dandelions aren’t going away, so instead of trying to fight them I say embrace them.
The dandelion got its name from the Old French word “dent-de-lion”, which means “lions tooth.” This is reference to the deep notches on the leaves. The hardy plant is found on every continent and has been transplanted to many locales to help feed honeybees. But what is really amazing about the dandelion is that it ranks as one of the most nutritious plants on Earth.
You can eat almost every part of the plant. The flowers can be battered and fried as fritters. The roots can be boiled like carrots or battered and fried. The leaves can be eaten like any other greens, either cooked or raw.
This weekend I decided our family would try eating dandelions. My daughters were thrilled as I told them that weekend plans included squatting and digging in our front yard. After more than a few complaints, they caught the spirit and seemed to enjoy it. We cleaned the dandelions along with some wild onions we found in the yard. I instructed the girls to cut them up and separate the parts. One bowl was for the flowers, one for roots and one for the greens. We then moved the greens and the onions to a skillet.
I sautéed the onions and greens in olive oil along with a little salt and garlic. When the greens went limp I pronounced them done. And you know what? They were pretty good. They were a little bitter for the girls, but I liked them.
They were way better than the mustard greens Dad tried to get me to eat when I was a kid. I suggest serving them as a side dish, maybe with scrambled eggs. Combining them with spaghetti noodles and cheese sounds good, too. I’m sure I’ll come up with some more combinations as well.
We plan to try some recipes with the flowers and roots as well. And who knows, I might kiss the mower goodbye and convert my whole front yard into a dandelion garden.