The name dandelion comes from the French dent de lion, meaning "lion's tooth," a reference to the jagged-edged leaves of this noteworthy weed that grows both wild and cultivated. In France, this plant is also known as pissenlit, couronne de moine and salade de taupe. The bright green leaves have a slightly bitter, tangy flavor that adds interest to salads. They can also be cooked like spinach. The roots can be eaten as vegetables or roasted and ground to make root "coffee." Though they're available until winter in some states, the best, most tender dandelion greens are found in early spring, before the plant begins to flower. Look for bright-green, tender-crisp leaves; avoid those with yellowed or wilted tips. Refrigerate, tightly wrapped in a plastic bag, up to 5 days. Wash thoroughly before using. Dandelion greens have long been prized for their health benefits, such as being a mild diuretic and for lowering blood pressure. They are an excellent source of vitamin A, iron and calcium.
From The Food Lover's Companion, Fourth edition by Sharon Tyler Herbst and Ron Herbst. Copyright © 2007, 2001, 1995, 1990 by Barron's Educational Series, Inc.