Have you struggled with dandelions in your garden? The amazingly resilient weed can find its way into lawns, garden beds and even hanging containers on my property. If you’re tired of doing battle with the sunshine-colored weeds, here’s an alternative. Try eating them.
Dandelions are a versatile, nutritious food and they are surprisingly good-tasting. Dandelions are high in vitamin K, vitamin A and fiber. They also contain thiamin, riboflavin, vitamins C and B6, calcium, iron, potassium and manganese. In lesser amounts, dandelion greens also include folate, magnesium, phosphorus and copper.
You can often find bunches of dandelions for sale in organic produce sections and in some Asian markets. If you’d like to save money and pick your own, there are some precautions to keep in mind. Never pick them in an area that may have been sprayed with weed control chemicals. It’s best to avoid areas near highways, around telephone poles, beside train tracks or in city parks.
Everybody has different taste bud sensitivities, but many people find raw dandelions to be bitter. However, numerous natural foods experts report that early spring dandelions are less bitter than those growing at other times of year.
According to John Kallas, owner of Portland, Oregon-based Wild Food Adventures, dandelions are bitter because they contain sesquiterpene, a milky water soluble chemical found everywhere in the plant except the flower part.
If you don’t like the taste of the raw greens, Kallas says the key to enjoying dandelions as a food is in minimizing the impact of this milky substance on your taste buds. You can sauté the leaves like you would other leafy greens. You can fry or bake the flowers into muffins and breads, and you can use those stubborn roots to make wine or tea.
Here are a few recipes to get you started:
1. Sautéed Dandelion Greens
Makes 4 servings
2 tsp salt (divided)
1 lb. dandelion greens (3-inch pieces)
1/2 onion (thinly sliced)
2 TB olive oil
1 TB butter
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
2 garlic cloves (minced)
1 TB grated cheese (if desired)
Soak the dandelion greens in a large bowl of cold water with 1 tsp salt for about 10 minutes. Drain well.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil with another 1 tsp salt. Cook greens until tender (about 3 to 4 minutes). Drain and rinse with cold water.
Heat olive oil and butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Stir in onion and red pepper flakes and cook until onion is tender (about 5 minutes). Stir in garlic for about 30 seconds more until garlic is fragrant.
Increase heat to medium-high before adding dandelion greens. Cook and stir until liquid evaporates (about 3 to 4 minutes). Season with salt and black pepper to taste.
If desired, sprinkle greens with Parmesan cheese before serving.
2. Dandelion and Fennel Salad
Makes 4 servings
Ingredients for salad
1 bunch dandelion greens (finely chopped)
½ fennel bulb (thinly sliced)
2 cup Napa cabbage (thinly sliced)
½ cup bean sprouts
Ingredients for dressing
1 lemon juiced
1 TB mirin (a sweet cooking wine found in the Asian market or Asian section of supermarket)
1/8 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp tamari soy sauce
2 TB olive oil
¼ tsp maple syrup
Place the salad ingredients in a large bowl.
Mix all the dressing ingredients together in a separate bowl. Then pour dressing over the top of the salad. Toss lightly.
3. Dandelion Green Smoothie
You can use dandelions in place of other greens to make a nutritious smoothie. To mask any bitter flavor, blend your freshly washed greens with sweet, flavorful fruit such as banana, mango, strawberries or pineapple.
1 cup water
1 cup chopped dandelion greens
1 medium banana
1/2 cup strawberries
1/2 cup blueberries
1/2 cup pineapple chunks
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tsp coconut oil
A little honey, stevia or maple syrup (optional)
Place all the ingredients into your blender. Blend for about 30 seconds or until it reaches desired consistency.
Have you ever wondered how the dandelion got its name? The name has more to do with the plant’s sharply indented leaves than its sunny flower. The French origin is the word “dentdelion,” which means “tooth of the lion.”
With these and other recipes, you will think of this lion-toothed weed as less of a nuisance and more of an inexpensive – or free — addition to your healthy diet.
What are your favorite dandelion recipes? Share them in the section below: