How to eat dandelions

Unchecked, these broad-leaved weeds choke out grass and other plants. Their roots deplete the soil of nutrients; their leaves shade nearby plants and exude a growth-inhibiting gas.

One method of control is to pull out individual plants as they appear, but you must get all of the long taproot to prevent recurrence. Pull them when the soil is wet, using a long weeder to free-the roots. For a large crop, apply a broadleaf weed killer such as 2,4-D directly to young plants. You may need to repeat this treatment several times.

Rich in vitamins A and C, dandelions are a food, too. The roots can be peeled and cooked like parsnips or roasted and ground for coffee. The leaves can be dried for tea or used as fresh greens. The leaves taste best (they are always somewhat bitter) when picked in very early spring while the flower bud is still close to the ground.

Rinse the leaves thoroughly in several changes of water. Use them raw in salad or cook them like spinach.

Caution: Don’t harvest dandelions from contaminated areas: chemically treated lawns, roadsides with chemical spillover, or dog-walking spots.