By Leslie Kelly
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Ever since foraging expert Langdon Cook showed me the joy of

and turning dandelions into something delicious, gathering and cooking those weeds has become a springtime ritual. Here are 4 reasons you might want to try looking at dandelions in a new light.

Photo by Leslie Kelly

1. Dandelions are free!

Dandelions are the bane of lawn lovers, but they're a fact of life from coast-to-coast. Cook suggests plucking them from patches that are off the beaten path, where landscapers haven't sprayed herbicides. While on the hunt, I ran into a city parks worker who steered me toward a median that was lush. I loaded my cache in a brown paper bag, not a plastic bag, to keep them as fresh as possible. As soon as you get home, stick them in some water and plan on using them within a few hours before the flowers start to close up.

2. Dandelions are the original super food

According to Cook, dandelions have been used for medicinal purposes for centuries. They're high in Vitamins A and C, as well as being a good source of minerals including potassium, calcium, manganese, iron, and magnesium. The entire plant can be consumed, from the flower to the root, which is said to battle seasonal allergies when sipped as a tea.

Remove the bitter green pieces from the flower. Photo by Leslie Kelly

3. Dandelions are easy to prep

When making dandelion tempura, pull the dark green leaves off the bottom of the flower to avoid bitterness. If you're going to add the slender yellow petals to a quick bread recipe, get the kids to help pull the flowers apart. If you end up with more than you can use, those petals can be frozen by spreading them on a baking sheet and then placed in the freezer for an hour. Move those frozen petals into a plastic bag or a container and use within a year.

Fried dandelion flowers taste awesome. Photo by Leslie Kelly

4. Dandelions taste awesome

The flowers have a mild flavor, especially early in the spring. Think about them like a sunny version of baby spinach. I've won the skeptics at my dinner table over to the charms of dandelions by dipping them in tempura batter I spike with a splash of beer and then deep frying in a small sauce pan until golden. Be sure and give them a sprinkle of salt as soon as they emerge from the hot oil and drain on paper towels. They're great on their own, served as an appetizer or perched on a spring salad.

Here's a handy guide on how to deep fry without making a hot mess. Find more stories like this on Allrecipes' Dish.