What are Dandelion Greens?

Mary McMahon

Dandelion greens are the leaves of the common dandelion plant, which many people think of as a weed. In fact, dandelions are edible and highly nutritious, in addition to being ubiquitous. The leaves are the most frequently eaten section of the plant, and they are edible in both raw and cooked form. The flowers and roots may also be eaten, however, typically cooked to mitigate their more bitter flavor.

Dandelion greens are very nutritious.
Dandelion greens are very nutritious.

Dandelion greens can often be purchased in health food stores and specialty markets, but they can be more readily harvested wild. In addition to being cheaper, wild harvesting is a great way to learn more about nature and the edible plants in your neighborhood.

Fresh dandelion greens can be added to salads.
Fresh dandelion greens can be added to salads.

The use of dandelion greens as a food dates back for centuries. In France, the plants came to be known as dent de lion, or “lion's teeth” in a reference to the long, jagged leaves and the sunny flowers which do rather resemble the manes of lions. With some adjustment to the name, the plant made its way into the English language, as well as the English diet.

Dandelion greens can be added to a vegetable stir-fry and served over brown rice.
Dandelion greens can be added to a vegetable stir-fry and served over brown rice.

As a general rule, dandelion greens are best when they have just emerged. The longer they are allowed to mature, the more bitter they get, and some consumers also prefer late summer and early fall greens to summer greens, which tend to be fiercely bitter. When used raw, dandelion greens complement salads in the same way that chicory and endive do, introducing a new layer of complexity and flavor. Cooked, dandelion greens may be lightly steamed or sautéed with other vegetables. Light cooking is generally the way to go with dandelion greens. If the greens are simply too bitter to eat, boil them in several changes of fresh water to leech out the bitterness.

The flowers can be fried, steamed, or used to brew wines. Some people particularly enjoy the flowers pickled as a condiment. The edible roots can be roasted, boiled, and stir fried, and they go well with naturally sweet root vegetables like carrots and yams.

People who are hesitant about foraging can harvest dandelion greens in confidence, since the plants are very distinctive and easy to identify. Foraging is well worth the effort, as well, since dandelion greens are rich in iron, calcium, and vitamins B, C, and E, among many others. The vitamin-rich greens are a great addition to any diet, and the bitter flavor will enhance the range of your palate as well.

Dandelion products can be used as a diuretic and can promote urinary health.
Dandelion products can be used as a diuretic and can promote urinary health.

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Discussion Comments


I think I would be concerned about pesticides, weed killers, as well as chemical fertilizers harvesting them from a 'neighbor' or an area that didn't grow them for consumption.

I go to the local farmer's market and feel better that they are grown organically. If I'm going to consume dandelion and get the all the health benefits, including detoxing the liver, digestive system, it seems counter-productive to do otherwise. Being said, I should stop putting off building a box for a raised backyard bed.


I cannot imagine spending money on something like dandelions. If you want to eat them, and I have heard they can be quite tasty in some foods, harvest your own. If you don't have any, get them from a friend's lawn- no need to spend a lot of money on something which so many people are trying to get rid of.


They can be a little aggravating on your lawn, but looking a little into it I found that they actually do not compete with the grass. Because their roots go much deeper than grass roots do, they use nutrients from a deeper part of the soil.

Since earthworms like to be around dandelions, they actually aerate the earth which helps the grass too. Now that I found that out, I am not looking at dandelions quite in the same light, as these annoying, pesky weeds.

Dandelions also stimulate the growth of flowers and fruits to where they ripen faster, however, because dandelions produce ethylene gas, neighboring plants will be limited in height.

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