Dandelions: A Nutritional Powerhouse

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This week your mission is to be sure you have plenty of greens in your diet.  So you don’t get bored (as if one could get bored with the nearly endless options!) we offer a walk on the wild side:  Dandelion greens.

You either love or hate dandelions.  If you’re a gardener, you probably hate them.  But if you’re aware of their nutritional benefits, you’ll love them.

In Latin, dandelion dent leo means “tooth of the lion”. Dandelion, both leaves and roots, whether grown wild (recognizable due to its ragged leaves) or cultivated (much smoother leaves as seen in the cultivars sold in most supermarkets), is chock full of medicinal benefits. Dandelions:

  • Stimulate digestive function through its bitter qualities and increased bile flow
  • Support key organs of detoxification such as the kidneys, liver and stomach
  • Act as a diuretic and natural laxative
  • Are anti-inflammatory
  • Anti-viral
  • Anti-rheumatic
  • Regulate blood sugar levels
  • Anti-oxidant: one cup has a whooping amount of carotenoid that matches almost a daily requirement of the vital Vitamin A and nearly a third of a daily dose of Vitamin C
  • Have twice the amount of calcium and iron of broccoli 
  • High in potassium, an important electrolyte that helps regulate sodium levels and the acid-alkaline balance in the body
  • High amount of inulin, an indigestible carbohydrate that feeds healthy gut bacteria

Dandelion greens can be found in most supermarkets for most of the year, although the spring crop will have the  longest and most lush looking leaves. Use them in salads, either on their own or mixed in with other greens, sautéed, in sandwiches, in pestos or hummus or even juiced or in Smoothies.

Roots can be peeled and steamed in a little water until tender, and served with organic butter or virgin coconut oil and a little salt & pepper.

Roasted dandelion root tea, available in organic sections of most supermarkets now, is an excellent way to wean yourself of a “too-much-coffee” habit. Dandelion leaf tea can be used during a spring cleanse, or whenever you feel your body could use an extra detox boost in a most gentle way.

Here are two great dandelion recipes.

 Dandelion Greens Salad 

  • 2 bunches of dandelion greens, tough stems removed, greens portions sliced into thin strips
  • 1 small red onion
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • ¼ cup goji berries, pre-soaked in cold water for about 10 minutes
  • 2 golden beets, roasted and thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons raw pine nuts

Vinaigrette

  • ¼ cup (+1 teaspoon for sautéing onion) extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Himalayan Sea Salt
  • 4 swirls with black pepper mill
  • pinch of cayenne pepper (optional, for a little kick)
  1. Pre-roast golden beets: wash, pat dry and wrap whole root in unbleached parchment paper and secure parcel with aluminum foil. Roast at 400 F for 45-60 minutes, until a fork is easily inserted.
  2. Pre-soak goji berries (this avoids them “stealing” too much of the vinaigrette to plump up).
  3. Sweat the onion in a little olive oil for 2-3 minutes, add the crushed garlic for another minute, remove from heat.
  4. Combine all salad ingredients in a large bowl.
  5. Whisk together vinaigrette ingredients separately, add to salad and toss gently until well coated.

Serve as a side salad, or turn into a main salad by adding some protein, such as chunks of grilled wild salmon, roasted chicken, French lentils or even stir-fried tempeh.

 

Dandelion Seed Pesto

Makes approx. 1 cup

  • 1 bunch dandelion greens, long stems removed, coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup sunflower seeds, roasted
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1-2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • ¼- ½ teaspoon Himalayan sea salt
  • 2-4 swirls with black pepper mill
  • pinch of cayenne pepper (optional for a little kick)
  • 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
  1. Roast the sunflower seeds in a dry skillet for about 4-6 minutes, shaking the pan constantly to avoid burning.
  2. Chop the garlic in a food processor.  Add roasted sunflower seeds and pulse. 
  3. Add the remaining ingredients and process until smooth. You may have to scrape down the sides occasionally.
  4. If the pesto is too thick, add a little more olive oil.

Serve with freshly sliced carrot, celery or kohlrabi sticks, add to a pasta dish, a soup or a stew or liquefy it more by adding some water or more olive oil and use it as a thick vinaigrette for a hardy kale salad.

 

References:

The New Whole Foods Encycopedia by Rebecca Wood

The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods by Michael Murray, ND

 

Additional Recipes for Greens

A Global Spice Tour

Don’t Toss Those Beet Greens!

Sweet and Sour Sesame Asian Cabbage and Kale

 

 

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