Dandelion greens can be a real nuisance in your yard, but in terms of your diet, it's a very different story. Far more than mere weeds, these bitter greens are rich in nutrients. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ranks them among the top 20 powerhouse fruits and vegetables. They're loaded with iron, calcium, protein, and vitamins A, C, and K. If you're wondering where to find dandelion greens, how to incorporate them into your diet, and what the benefits of doing so are, here's a look at the powerful perks of adding more of these prolific, nutritious greens to your diet today.

What They Are and How to Find Them

Every dandelion has three basic components: the root, the greens, and the flower. While the roots can be used medicinally or for dandelion coffee, and the flower can be used to make a natural dye or wine, the greens can be used for dozens of different culinary purposes. If you're looking to pick fresh dandelions outside, only collect them from areas where you know the ground hasn't been treated with pesticides, weed killers, or other contaminants. Make sure you pick the greens when they're at their best—in the early spring, before they've flowered, or in the fall, when the weather cools. You may also be able to find dandelion greens at your local farmers' market or grocery store if they're in season.

Benefits of Eating Dandelions

Dandelions are right up there with other vegetables in terms of nutritional quality. Compared to broccoli, they have more than seven times the vitamin K, four times more calcium, and one-and-a-half times more vitamin A, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. The article goes on to say that, while dandelions have less vitamin C and folate than spinach, they have three times as much riboflavin and twice as much iron. What's more, while spinach contains no vitamin E, dandelion greens offer 17 percent of the recommended daily dose for adults.

Recipe Ideas

When you want to take advantage of the nutritional benefits of a dandelion's leafy, bitter greens, you have a lot of options. Whether you eat them raw with a light dressing or cooked into a more complicated meal, there are a lot of ways to enjoy dandelion greens for lunch or dinner. To help inspire your future meals, here are a few ways to use these potent greens:

  • Mixed into a salad
  • Blended into pesto
  • Simmered in a soup
  • Sauteed with lemon, olive oil, and garlic
  • Wilted with pasta
  • Cooked into a quiche or pie
  • Cooked into rice or quinoa pilaf
  • Juiced into fruity blends
  • Steeped for tea

Whether you pull the greens from your garden or pick them up at the store, adding more dandelions to your diet is a worthwhile choice. What's more, because there are so many creative ways to use these greens, it's easy to find a way to make them work for you. To reap the nutritious rewards of these fast-growing greens, put them to use in your kitchen today.