By Heather Rhoades
We freely admit that it may be a little odd to have an article about how to grow dandelions. After all, most gardeners consider dandelions a weed and are looking for information on how to remove it from their garden. But, once you get to know a little more about this nutritious plant, you may find yourself also wondering how to grow and harvest dandelion plants for yourself.
Why You Should Be Growing Dandelion Greens
While dandelions can be a nuisance in the lawn, they are also a surprising source of nutrients. Dandelion greens contain vitamin C, potassium, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, thiamin, riboflavin, beta carotene and fiber. They are actually more nutritious than most of the fruits and vegetables you can buy in the grocery store.
It is also touted as being beneficial to your liver, kidneys, blood and digestion. Not to mention that it supposedly helps with acne, weight-loss, blood pressure and cholesterol levels. It is nearly a perfect food.
How to Grow Dandelions
At a very basic level, you don’t need to do much to grow dandelions. Chances are there is a whole yard full of them near where you live, perhaps even right outside your door. But it is likely that the dandelion plants growing in your lawn are Common Dandelion (Taraxacum Officinale subsp. vulgare). This is the most common variety of dandelion, but there are thousands of varieties and cultivars to be found around the world. Common dandelion has all the health benefits mentioned above, but they do tend to be a bit more bitter than some of the other varieties of dandelion you can buy.
Some “gourmet” varieties of dandelion include:
- French Dandelion a.k.a Vert de Montmagny Dandelion
- Amélioré à Coeur Plein Dandelion
- Pissenlit Coeur Plein Ameliore Dandelion
- Improved Broad Leaved Dandelion
- Arlington Dandelion
- Improved Thick-Leaved Dandelion a.k.a Dandelion Ameliore
Dandelions are by nature a very bitter green, but there are some steps you can take to reduce how bitter it is. First, grow a less bitter variety such as the ones listed above. The right variety can make dandelion greens taste much better than the wild variety growing in your yard.
Second, try growing dandelions in the shade. This will blanch the leaves some and will result in a less bitter leaf. Alternately, you can manually blanch the dandelion leaves by covering the plants a few days before you are ready to harvest.
The third thing you can do to reduce bitterness is to harvest dandelion leaves early. Young leaves will be less bitter than more mature leaves.
You can keep your dandelions from becoming invasive in your yard by either choosing a less invasive variety (yes, they exist) or by making sure that the plant never goes to seed and therefore cannot spread its seeds throughout the neighborhood.
Much like other greens, dandelions can be harvested either as a “head” by removing the entire plant when mature (starting to flower) at harvest or as a leaf, which means that you would remove only some of the young leaves or the whole head when the plant is still young. Both ways are acceptable and which you choose will be based on your preference.
Another benefit of growing dandelions is the fact that it is a perennial. After you harvest the plant it will grow back the same season and year after year.
Never harvest dandelions from a location that is near a road or has been treated with pesticides or other chemicals.