How can you not love a dandelion?
I ask this because a dandelion is one of the first bright signs of spring. Their yellow flowers spread along the ground like stepping stones of sunshine heralding the change of season all sun lovers welcome. I understand there are those among us who see the dandelion as a dreaded weed to be controlled as to not upset the balance of a green monochromatic landscape, but I would suggest a more wild and colorful reflection in one’s yard is a representation of a life being lived fully.
Beyond visual appeal and seasonal anticipation, there are many reasons to welcome the dandelion into your life. A few of my favorite have to do with eating, of course! As my knowledge of food as medicine grows, I am fascinated by the healthy benefits of the many plants growing in our own yards and nearby forests.
Dandelions are completely edible from roots to leaves to flowers, and the many ways of enjoying these edibles is evident in the many recipes you can find. Dandelions have been on the human plate throughout history and if we know anything from history, it is everything serves a purpose. Our ancestors chose the plants to eat for a reason. They did not have the science we have today to determine a plant’s properties, but they knew what made their bodies function well!
It may seem strange at first to eat a flower many of us have grown up thinking of as a weed. However, after reading what medicinal plant experts and enthusiasts have to say, you may welcome the dandelion as more than just a sign of spring, but instead as a sign of nature’s bounty and gift for increased vitality.
Here are the basic nutritional facts. Dandelion greens are a tremendous plant based source of vitamin K. One serving of dandelion greens provides 535 percent of the recommended daily value of this important vitamin known for bone health and as a support to the circulatory system meaning heart health! Dandelion greens are a rich source of beta-carotene, which the body converts into Vitamin A. One serving of fresh dandelion greens provides 112 percent of the daily minimum requirement of vitamin A translating into medicine for healthy skin, eyes, and mucous membranes. These greens are also loaded with vitamins C and B5, calcium, iron, potassium, and manganese.
In one statistical comparison I reviewed, dandelion greens ranked ahead of both broccoli and spinach in overall nutritional value. Two other top ranking nutritional powerhouse weeds are amaranth (pigweed) and lambsquarters. Collards are the only domestic green to break into the top four followed by broccoli and spinach. As if this were not enough, dandelion is an excellent source of lecithin. Lecithin is a nutrient that elevates the brain’s acetylcholine, a substance that helps maintain brain function and may play a role in slowing or even stopping the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. As a bonus, lecithin also helps the body maintain good liver function.
Now that you have the nutritional scoop, here are a few easy ways to include dandelions in your diet. Dandelion greens are bitter when eaten raw. Bitter greens are good for digestion, but if you want to make them more palatable- combine them with other lighter greens or perhaps a honey dressing and some bits of dried or fresh fruit. Eaten raw, they will retain the most nutrition. If you cook the greens, keep it to a quick cook tossing them into eggs, pasta, or on a pizza.
|Dandelion greens in a quick sauté with fresh asparagus, shallots, garlic, and morel mushrooms. Delicious on a pizza !|
Dandelion Flowers can be eaten raw in salads, dried for tea, or used to make wine, vinegar, or jelly. The possibilities are only limitless if you stretch your taste preferences and culinary creativity!
If you are feeling industrious on your dandelion harvest, bring along a spade and dig up the whole plant. The nutritious roots contain a milky sap that contains valuable properties. Steam the whole roots to seal in the sap. This happens when the sealed roots don’t release the sap when cut. Once steamed, cut the roots into pieces. Air dry on a plate covered lightly with a paper towel for a day. Spread the root pieces evenly on a baking sheet and roast in a 250 degree oven until completely dry. A lighter colored roast will impart a milder flavor and a darker roast will have a stronger aroma and flavor. The pieces can be stored in an airtight jar and used for making tea, or the pieces can be ground and used as a coffee substitute.
Before you head out to harvest your own wild edibles, here are a couple of things to keep in mind…
~remember to harvest only from an area that has not been sprayed with any chemicals and stay away from any areas frequently visited by your pets!
~if you have allergies to ragweed, marigold, mums, daisies, or yarrow, you might be allergic to dandelion flowers, too.
Be curious and have fun exploring what the earth abundantly provides!
The Dandelion Celebration by Peter Gail – a great book for tons of recipes and general information on history and benefits of eating dandelions.)
http://foodfacts.mercola.com/dandelion-greens.html– a fabulous website for everything about the body and keeping it healthy
http://www.vitaminstuff.com/herbs-dandelion.html– one more resource on the dandelion’s health benefits