Young Dandelion Leaves Are Edible
While you may not wish to cultivate dandelion in your lawn, often there is a field nearby that is filled with dandelion plants, just waiting to be eaten if picked early enough in the season. Pick dandelions early for eating in salads, stir fries, and in other dishes. Dandelions show up in the cool, wet weather of April and May, producing large bunches of leaves that have a pleasant mild flavor. As higher temperatures come the plant produces its yellow flowers at which time the leaves become quite bitter and unpalatable. Make sure, if you are harvesting dandelion to eat, to collect them with the root intact and only from areas you are sure have not been exposed to pesticides and fertilizers so far this season.
Dandelion leaves are low in calories and high in vitamins A and C. They are also a good source of calcium and iron.
Selecting Dandelions For Picking – Look for light green leaves with stems and root attached. As the leaves become a darker green, they begin to taste bitter. Fresh dandelion leaves can be refrigerated for a day or two with the root attached. Use the leaves while they are still crisp.
Preparation - Separate the leaves from the roots and soak them in cold water to wash off the dirt and dust. The leaves can be added to a salad with lettuce and other greens. They taste best with a light tasting dressing that does not mask the taste of the dandelion. If you cook with dandelion, treat them in much the same way as you would cook spinach. They are best when lightly cooked. They can be stir-fried, boiled, sautéed, or included in soups or stews.