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They may very well be nature’s most hated wildflower.

Instead of restricting themselves to well-lighted forest areas or open pastures, where wildflowers belong, dandelions pop up everywhere — taking over carefully-manicured lawns and driving homeowners mad.

This is about the time every year that dandelions begin growing by the thousands. If you pluck one out of your lawn today, there are certain to be five more sprout up to replace it overnight.

Some homeowners tackle the problem with weed-killer. Other, more meticulous homeowners actually dig them up one at a time and toss them aside out of a preference to keep their lawn free of harmful chemicals.

But if we knew the truth about dandelions, we might harvest them instead of killing them or cursing them.

Or maybe not. But the truth is, dandelions are edible. And they even have medicinal value.

Any self-respecting southerner is aware of the culinary uses of poke sallet, another weed that is otherwise considered useless. But for whatever reason, dandelions have never received the same respect.

In the old days, dandelions were used as a folk remedy throughout North America and in some oriental cultures. Among other things, they were used to treat infections, liver problems, inflammatory diseases and even cancer.

They have also been used as a diuretic.

And that’s not all. Dandelions contain niacin, a vitamin used to combat high cholesterol. They have been known to lower high blood pressure, can provide relief for Chron’s Disease sufferers, can cure anemia . . . and, it is said, improve night vision.

They’re nutritious, too. Dandelions are a good source of vitamins A, B, C, E and K.

On the other hand, dandelions are relatively high in carbs compared to other edible “weeds.” A single serving of dandelion greens contains 9.2 grams of carbs, nearly half the amount contained in a Hershey’s chocolate bar.

There are numerous uses for dandelions. Some brew the petals into dandelion wine. There’s also dandelion blossom cake. They can be made into dandelion soup. Or the greens can simply be fried — just like poke sallet or any other greens.

Mix a half-pound of dandelion greens with a half-pound of red onion, a couple of tomatoes and half a teaspoon of dried basil for a dandy dandelion salad.

The National Wild Turkey Federation offers a recipe for dandelion blossom cake. The ingredients include 3/4 C sugar, 3/4 C honey, 1 C vegetable oil, 3 eggs, 2 C flour, 2 tsp baking powder, 1 tsp baking soda, 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp salt, 1 C dandelion petals, 1 C crushed pineapple (drained), 1/2 C pecans (chopped) and 1/2 C dried, sweetened coconut. Simply mix and bake.

Be careful, though. Some folks do have food-borne allergies to dandelions.

I’m not likely to be eating dandelion stew myself, but times are hard. And if worse comes to worst, some might struggle to get a garden to grow but few people have ever had trouble growing dandelions.

■ Ben Garrett is editor of the Independent Herald. Contact him at bgarrett@ihoneida.com.