It’s that time of year: Dandelions are invading lawns and gardens, springing up in cracks in the sidewalk and covering pastures in a haze of golden yellow.
We dig them, we poison them, we shake our fists at them. But more than any other common weed, dandelions have a myriad of practical uses.
The leaves are excellent additions to salads. In Europe they were actually cultivated as a garden green. They’re packed full of good things like vitamins A, B, C and D, zinc, potassium and iron. Try adding a few leaves to a sandwich for a extra zip.
Harvest dandelion leaves young, before they develop the bitter milky sap in the leaf ribs. Another way to avoid bitterness is to deprive them of sunlight for a week or so. Just upturn a box over them until you’re ready to dig them up. Or soak the greens in a pot of salted water for five or six hours, then cook them like spinach, maybe with a little ham or bacon, or tossed with butter and salt and pepper
A strong tea made from dandelion leaves or roots serves as a diuretic and is supposed to be good for the liver. Dandelion roots can be dried and ground like chicory to make a drink that’s slightly bitter, like coffee. The roots are know to stimulate the appetite, aid in digestion, and detoxify the liver and gall bladder.
And the flowers? Make dandelion wine, of course! If you’re feeling frisky and want to try it, Jack Keller has several recipes here. In fact, his site is the best one I’ve found out there for the beginning winemaker.