It’s incredible that these days someone can go to a fancy restaurant or a farmer’s market and pay top dollar for something that has, for decades, been considered a bane to gardeners and lawncare professionals alike. Dandelions aren’t supposed to be special, are they? Aren’t they supposed to be the most villainous of weeds, something we despise rather than something that appetizes?

Well, they’re a funny thing, weeds. What’s one person’s weed is another’s delicacy. Kudzu, the scourge of the South and one of the most notorious invasive species in the US, is used as a vegetable in Japan. In fact, that’s how dandelions first came to the US: as a vegetable. Before the 20th century, they were revered as a bountiful source of food and medicine. They were even thought of as beautiful.

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Thus, it seems that the farmer’s market and fancy restaurants, then, are the exact right setting for dandelions after all. Well, unless…you might just walk out in the backyard and find the makings of a great dish for tonight’s dinner, growing right in the lawn.

Why Dandelions Are Plentiful

Dandelions are actually one of the most recognizable plants in the Western world. Most Westerners would be able to identify a dandelion long before they would a pineapple plant or a coffee tree. That’s because dandelions know how to survive, and they thrive in the temperate climate.

Each plant has niches within the natural world. Dandelions specialize in loosening up compacted soil with their powerful taproot. That taproot also brings up nutrients from the depths of the soil, providing them for other plants. It also aerates the ground. Lawns and gravel are prime spots for dandelions to perform their biological duties.

Meanwhile, above the surface, dandelions grow quickly, and when the tops are pulled, they often multiply, which is why they are almost impossible to eradicate. Dig a dandelion up, dice up the root, and new plants will grow from the individual sections of the root.

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Why Dandelions Are Nutritious

Look on any healthy food list and, without much effort, you’ll discover dark, leafy greens are amongst the best things a person can eat. For the most part, that’s what people know of eating dandelions: the dark, leafy greens.

Dandelions are crazy healthy. They have an abundance of vitamins A, C, E, and K, as well as a host of minerals, such as iron, calcium, and potassium. It has hardly any fat but supplies a sampling of protein and dietary fiber.

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Additionally, dandelions have medicinal powers. It improves liver functioning and stimulates urination. They also provide inulin, which helps maintain go gut flora, and compounds within the plant are anti-inflammatory.

Why Dandelions Are Perfect for Fresh Produce

Though they are only recently becoming commonplace in supermarkets and veggie stands, dandelions are easy to find because they grow virtually everywhere: cracks in the sidewalk, abandoned lots, manicured lawns, vegetable gardens… Even better, for those willing to find them in the wild, they are absolutely free.

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Dandelions are extremely versatile and useful. While dandelion greens are often what we purchase to eat, the whole plant is edible. Dandelion greens can work raw in salads, or they can be cooked like spinach or chard. The flowers are also easy to work with. They can be pickled, formed as fritters, tossed in salads, or cooked in tofu scrambles. They are commonly used to make tea and wine, too.

The dandelion root is respected medicinally, and it is commonly roasted and ground to be used as a substitute for coffee. While coffee connoisseurs will rightfully scoff at this, dandelion tea is delicious in its own right. Dandelion root is so well thought of, helping with blood pressure and diabetes, that it is available in capsule form.

Forage for Dinner

In a world where food security is moving its way back to the land and home gardens, dandelions are a reassuring path into personal food production. How wonderful can a crop be? The whole thing is useful, as well as tremendously healthy. For the most part, we don’t have to plant it—after all, it’s a weed, and even if we do, growing it won’t be all that challenging because, well, after all, it’s a weed. So, maybe it’s time for humanity to relearn how to forage. Wild food is in abundance!

Read More About Foraging:

Try Some of These Dandelion Recipes:

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