If you can't beat 'em...eat 'em

butter lettuce and dandelion salad

Dandelions are a gardener's bane. Even before the grass sheds its winter dullness, bright yellow flowers polka-dot the lawn, frustrating homeowners who dream of lush green expanses of lawn. But dandelions weren't always considered a nuisance. The French have long found dandelions to be a culinary delight (the name comes from the French dent de lion, literally 'lion's teeth'), and their popularity has started to rise again among chefs and nutritionists alike. David Tanis, writing for The New York Times, explains how the versatile green can be easily foraged, even in urban environments.

Even if you prefer to "forage" in the grocery store or at farmers' markets, you might be able to find both cultivated and wild dandelions as interest in them grows. You're more likely to find the long-leaved variety in grocery stores. While he considers those a fine choice, Tanis instructs the reader to "trim them ruthlessly, using just the top eight inches of the leaves for salad." He also notes that "like some chicories, dandelion has a pleasant slight bitterness, more so with the wild than the cultivated type."

In addition to their pleasant bitter flavor (think arugula), dandelions have plenty of vitamins A and C. If you decide to pluck your own, make sure to pick them before they begin to flower, so the the leaves don't get tough. Additionally, you should make sure you know whether they have been treated with any pesticides or other chemicals. The EYB Library contains nearly 150 recipes using dandelions, from salads like the Butter lettuce and dandelion salad with hot bacon dressing from Australian Gourmet Traveller Magazine above, to tonics and even muffins.

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