While most people are looking for ways to get rid of dandelions in their lawns and gardens, I think more people should be eating them. When I was a boy my Italian relatives would harvest dandelion greens from my grandfather’s fields in spring and cook up bushel baskets of dandelions for eating.
Dandelions are a tasty green when picked in spring before they get bitter and when picked again in fall with the return of cooler weather. The greens can be added to salads or sauteed with garlic, olive oil, and tomatoes for a great side dish. The flowers can be made into wine, and the roots can be roasted and eaten like carrots. Plus, dandelion greens are higher in vitamins and minerals than most other common greens, such as lettuce.
You can harvest young dandelion greens from untreated lawns and fields in spring simply by digging them out of the ground with a knife or trowel. For the tenderest, least bitter greens, harvest dandelions before they flower, and select those growing in some shade. You can also grow your own dandelion greens in your garden. These aren’t botanically the exact same greens as the wild ones, but they have a similar flavor and are a favorite green in Europe. You can amaze your neighbors by growing dandelions in your veggie garden while they’re spraying to eliminate them from their lawns. These cultivated varieties are more tender and less bitter than wild dandelions and grow more upright, making them easier to harvest. Look for varieties such as ‘Ameliore’. Plant and grow them as you would other greens. You’ll be able to cut them several times during the growing season to harvest the greens, or you can remove whole plants. As you know, dandelions are perennial. So they will come back each spring. To prevent them from spreading to areas outside your garden, snip off the flowers whenever they form.