Dandy ideas

When I was little, my mother would send my sister and me out into the yard to collect dandelion flowers. We raced around, trying to gather more than the other, and then watched in fascination as my mother made “wine” out of them in a plastic jug. I don’t think we ever even nibbled the leaves, though.

Years later, I learned that dandelion leaves are actually quite nutritious and can be had for free all over Sacramento. Their peppery, slightly bitter flavor is a great addition to salads. You can also sauté them for a high-potassium side dish that’s good for your liver. They’re said to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties as well.

I learned recently that during World War II, people used dried dandelion roots as a coffee substitute! You dry and roast them, then steep them in boiling water. It’s caffeine-free and apparently has a hearty flavor. So as you resurrect your yard and garden this spring, don’t curse the neighbor with the dandelions all over his yard, just go pick the plants and invite him over for dandelion coffee and a salad.