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Dandelions—for Lunch?!?

originally published June 2009 in Georgia Mountain Laurel

Dandelions–common lawn plague or mountain
delicacy? Read about the tastier side of dandelions,
from dandelion wine to a substitute for coffee,
in Foxfire 2's chapter "Spring Wild Plant Foods."
Foxfire 2 is second in the series of 12 books written
by Rabun County students, documenting their
families and their Southern Appalachian heritage.

By now, lawn-mowing has been in progress for weeks. Do those pesky yellow dandelions scattered throughout the grass make you smile or frown? Before long-distance transportation and refrigeration made the typical vegetable "favorites" like lettuce and tomatoes available year-round, dandelions were once looked for with anticipation in the spring by Appalachian folks. After a long, cold winter eating preserved meats and a precious few of last year's vegetables stored in a root cellar, spring's arrival brought forth a number of fresh green things that, while maybe not the tastiest or most-desired, were months ahead of fresh garden crops and were a very welcome change from the salted or smoked meats that were the staples of most winter diets. While people today grumble about dandelions as the bane of a perfect lawn, Foxfire students found that many mountain folk had a different reaction to the cheerful yellow blossoms - "Lunch!"

Edible parts of dandelions include the young leaves, the flower buds, and the scraped roots. Dandelion greens are very rich in iron and vitamin C. Some authorities say the roots are inedible, and all traces of root must be cut away when preparing greens for cooking. Gather much more than you think you need, for they cook down. Some cooks add a pinch of soda when cooking dandelions.

Greens: gather when young, wash, and boil about twenty minutes in water with fatback added; or drain and fry in grease. Season with salt and pepper.

Hot greens on toast: cook greens slightly; drain. Add bits of fried bacon and bacon grease. Serve over toast.

Dandelion bud omelet: gather one cup dandelion buds before flower color shows. Fry buds in dab of butter until they pop. Add four eggs, salt and pepper. Top with raw leaves, finely cut before serving.

Salad: wash and pat dry one-half cup unopened flower buds and one bunch tender leaves. Fry two strips of bacon, toss buds in hot bacon grease until they open. Drain. Mix with leaves and bacon; add three tablespoons oil and vinegar.

Coffee substitute: gather dandelion roots. Peel. Roast until dark brown; grind. Use as substitute for real coffee.

This information on dandelions was verified by local botanist Marie Mellinger prior to publication in the "Spring Wild Plant Foods" chapter of Foxfire 2. Foxfire 2 is available at The Foxfire Museum Gift Shop. Call 706-746-5828 or visit for more information.

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