Have dandelions taken over your yard? It’s sort of ironic that, while we’re willing to spend time and money cultivating flowers in our gardens, these cheerful yellow flowers are widely viewed as the scourge of the suburban lawn.
Dandelions came to North America right around the same time as the first European settlers. Their name is an Anglicized version of the French phrase “dent de lion” meaning “lion’s tooth,” after the plant’s broad, toothy leaves. They are now found throughout the Northern Hemisphere, in North America, Europe, and Asia.
A perennial plant, dandelions reproduce by means of the well-known parachute-like seedpods that appear in the stalk after the flower wilts. These wispy growths detach from the plant and spread on the wind.
Though it may seem hard to believe today, dandelions were once purposely cultivated throughout North America. Their presence was deemed good for crops, because they attracted bees. For centuries, dandelions have been valued as a natural remedy for numerous ailments, including Hepatitis, kidney stones, and diabetes. They are said to promote a healthy liver and kidneys.
In addition, every part of the plant is edible. Fresh dandelion leaves have a sharp, bitter flavor that many find pleasing in salads. Just substitute them for lettuce in your favorite recipe, or mix them with other greens for a mellower flavor. Cooking them lessens their bite, and they are also popular sautéed or in soups. The flowers are often used to make a distinctive wine.
Dandelion leaves are a rich source of vitamins and minerals, including vitamins A, C, and K, calcium, potassium, iron, and manganese.
So, before you aim that can of herbicide at your local population of dandelions, harvest them instead. Here are a few recipes to get you started:
Sautéed Dandelion Greens
1 pound dandelion greens
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1 whole small dried hot chili pepper, seeds removed, crushed
1/4 cup cooking oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Parmesan cheese to taste
Rinse dandelion greens in salt water. Cut leaves into two-inch pieces, and cook uncovered in small amount of salt water about 10 minutes, or until tender. Sauté onion, garlic, and chili pepper in oil. Drain greens and add to onion and garlic mixture. Serve with grated Parmesan cheese, salt, and pepper to taste.
2 pounds dandelion greens
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 cups vegetable stock
2 large leeks, light parts only, sliced
1 carrot, diced
2 1/2 cups milk
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper to taste
Blanch dandelion greens in a pot of boiling salted water. Drain and squeeze out excess water, chop, and set aside. Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium high heat. Add greens, carrot, and leeks and cook, stirring often, for 15 minutes. Add vegetable stock and simmer for about 15 minutes. Reduce heat to medium and whisk in milk. Cook, stirring frequently, until slightly thickened. Add Dijon mustard and purée mixture in a blender until smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
3 quarts fresh dandelion heads
1 pound golden raisins
1 gallon water
3 pounds granulated sugar
3 tablespoons wine yeast
1 teaspoon yeast nutrient
Trim any remaining stalk from the base of each flower head. Place the flowers in a large bowl. Set aside one pint of water, and bring the remainder to a boil. Pour the boiling water over the dandelion flowers and cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap. Leave this mixture to sit for two days, stirring twice daily. Pour the flowers and water into a large pot and bring it to a low boil. Peel the lemons and orange thinly, leaving behind the white pith. Add sugar and citrus peels. Boil for one hour, then pour the mixture into a crock or plastic pail. Add the juice and pulp of the lemons and orange. Allow the mixture to stand until it reaches room temperature. Add yeast and yeast nutrient, cover, and store in a warm place for three days. Strain and pour into a bottle or jug. Add the raisins and fit an airlock onto the bottle. After the wine clears, strain and rack it (siphon off the sediment at the bottom on the bottle), adding the remaining pint of water. Once fermentation ceases completely — you’ll know it’s time when no more bubbles rise through your airlock — rack again. Set aside for two months, then rack once more and bottle. Age six months to one year.