HOW TO CUT: Armed with a pair of garden shears, head out into the yard with a big basket. Lift up the leaves and then pull the whole plant upward. You may need shears to cut the root. Snip off the root right above where the leaves spread out, in order to loosen the dirt and remove the older leaves. They won't taste as good as the juicier young leaves anyway.

WHERE TO LOOK: You can easily collect a basket full of dandelions in about a half-hour. If you live in an older neighborhood where the yard is spacious and the lawn is ancient, like mine in Arlington, the pickings are easy. However, your yard is not the only place to harvest dandelions. As soon as you start to pay attention, your dinner greens become fresh and free. My routine after-lunch walk on the bike trail nets me a plentiful bounty. You should be careful to avoid areas that might be sprayed with pesticides, though. For a safer bet, farm-grown dandelions are sold in some grocery stores. At a Korean market in Northern Virginia I saw the label "dandelion" on a bunch of leaves that were about 20 inches long! They had been grown in Texas. Upon closer inspection, I could recognize the stacked triangle pattern on the leaves, but there was quite a difference from the ones I found in my yard.

OTHER FACTS: Dandelion greens are rich in beta carotene, potassium, lecithin and iron and a common ingredient in many cultures. Italians put them in lasagna, pizza and casseroles; Germans mix them with mashed potatoes; Hungarians eat them with eggs. Dandelion leaves are eaten in salad and dandelion roots are sauteed as a side dish. The flowers are mixed with batter to be fried into fritters or made into dandelion wine. One herb farm's best-selling tea blend is dandelion with peppermint, red clover, nettles, parsley and cloves.

-- Shi Li