Get Healthy! Eat Some Dandelions

April 10, 2016 | By | Comments (5)

Photo: Steve Bender

If the sight of bright yellow dandelions dotting your otherwise perfect lawn drives you batty, blame it on the Pilgrims. It was they who reportedly brought the plant to America from its homeland in northern Europe in the 1600s. What else would you expect from guys wearing belt buckles on their hats? 

Of course, the Pilgrims had good reason for doing so. The common dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) is among the nutritious and useful of herbs, with a long history of culinary and medicinal use. Its leaves, whether boiled or eaten fresh (yum!), are high in potassium, calcium, iron, and Vitamins A, C, B1, and B12. The dried and roasted roots make an acceptable coffee substitute for people who don’t like coffee, and the fermented flowers produce dandelion wine and beer. Dandelion tonics are a folk medicine remedy for liver problems. The Old Farmer’s Almanac says they also act as a powerful diuretic — just the thing you want to imbibe before a trans-Atlantic flight. Beekeepers value dandelions as a rich source of pollen and nectar.

This deep-rooted perennial forms a rosette of sharply toothed leaves 6-12 inches long. Their fancied resemblance to a lion’s teeth gives the plant its common name — “dandelion,” a corruption of the French dent de lion (“lion’s tooth”). Blossoms appear from late winter through fall, carried atop hollow stems 4-15 inches high. They’re followed by the familiar puffball seed heads that children like to blow on, releasing seeds to fly hither and yon.

Dandelions are mortal enemies of lawn lovers, who mercilessly execute them with broadleaf weed killers, despite the fact that the flowers are quite pretty. But more and more health-seeking folks grow the culinary types (selected for larger, thicker leaves) found in specialty seed catalogs. Culinary selections such as ‘Pissenlit’ (I told you they were diuretic), ‘Catalogna,’ and ‘Ameliore’ give the best yields and enjoy full sun and fertile, well-drained soil. Pick only young leaves before flowers appear; old leaves, like old girlfriends, can be bitter.

Taking A Break
Grumpy will be away for the next two weeks for some well-deserved R & R. Please be patient if I don’t answer your comments right away. The future of the world is at stake.


  1. Nancy Lucas

    I remember in the spring when we would go wild green picking and dandelions would be one of the greens ,but if you wanted a good batch they had to be picked early spring .

    May 14, 2016 at 5:51 am
  2. Anne C Spaziani

    Dandelion greens make a wonderful salad. I make it like a regular tossed salad, oil, vinegar, basil, garlic powder, salt and pepper. My mother-in-law who is Italian either makes the salad or boils them to put in scrambled eggs or eat plain. They are not easy to pick while leaving the leaves in tact. They have to be soaked and cleaned which is a tedious job.

    May 1, 2016 at 5:13 pm
  3. Marcia

    After I told my grandson (6y/o) all about this article he wants to try and eat them? The look of horror on my son’s face was enough for me to explain that Daddy put down weed and feed and perhaps he should check with daddy first!

    April 25, 2016 at 12:51 pm
  4. Rick T.

    There is a fairly expensive antique botanical print of the dandelion in a publication of British wildflowers (Flora Londinensis).

    April 14, 2016 at 4:29 pm
  5. Sandy Lipsey

    Thank you for this article. I have always loved dandelions (have never eaten them). They are the flowers that make everything ‘Spring’ again!

    April 11, 2016 at 10:51 pm

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