The old saying “What goes around comes around” is often true. When I was young, spring rolled around and my Grandmother Grace would forage for dandelion leaves. She said getting a mess of greens was her springtime tonic. She cooked them up with bacon fat, etc. I wouldn’t touch them … Grandma eating weeds? Really?

So now I am planting dandelions in my orchard, both for a dynamic accumulator to help aerate this rocky soil and for my own dining pleasure. Really! I learned to enjoy them while living in France. The French also consider them a springtime tonic. The greens of the dandelion are deeply toothed, giving the plant its name in old French: dent-de-lion means “lion’s tooth.”

I realized that after living in the mountains of Sonoma and moving back to St. Joseph, I was supposed to relearn a few basic tenets of Midwest yards. Do not allow dandelions in the yard? I never did agree. I like the cheerful yellow, I like the way the bees forage after winter and I like the way they taste. So I am eating dandelions.

Of course, you should be realistic and forage in clean areas.

Regarded by most people as a wild, unwanted weed, dandelion greens are powerhouses of nutrition and are as pleasantly tasty as most other greens. The plant grows wild and rampant in most parts of the United States and other countries. Ounce for ounce, dandelion greens are among the most frugal, nutritional vegetable bargains out there.

Prepping and cooking tips for dandelion greens

All parts of the dandelion are edible, including the dandelion root. The root can be roasted and used as a brewed coffee substitute. It can be boiled and stir-fried as a cooked vegetable (be sure to scrub it well to remove all dirt particles).

The dandelion flower can be made into dandelion wine or be sautéed, boiled or stir-fried as a cooked vegetable. Collect them before mid-spring, when the most flowers bloom. Some continue to flower right into the fall. Use only the flower’s yellow parts, as the green sepals at the flower base are quite bitter.

Dandelion greens taste like many other salad greens, with a bit of a sharp kick, much like chicory and escarole. Dandelion greens can be boiled gently or sautéed in olive oil like spinach and used as a cooked vegetable that can be mixed into soups, stews, casseroles and stir fries or served as a vegetable side dish. Diced and sautéed with onion and garlic, they can be added to cooked white rice for a change of pace. Greens also can be served raw in sandwiches or eaten as a mixed greens salad.

Dandelion Greens with Onion and Cheese

1 pound dandelion greens

1/2 cup chopped onion

1 clove garlic, minced

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes, optional and to taste

1/4 cup bacon fat

Salt and pepper, to taste

Parmesan cheese, grated

Discard dandelion green roots; wash greens well in salted water. Cut leaves into 2-inch pieces. Cook greens uncovered in small amount of salted water until tender, about 10 minutes.

Sauté onion, garlic and pepper flakes in bacon fat. Drain greens; add to onion and garlic mixture.

Taste dandelion greens and season with salt and pepper. Serve dandelion greens with grated Parmesan cheese.