In the height of summer, those cute yellow flowers in your lawn might seem a nuisance, but for the rest of the year think of dandelions as your friend in healthy living. These super delicious and wonderfully nutritious greens are easy to use in your kitchen and offer a host of health benefits.
Dandelions are part of the sunflower family, and the flowers, leaves and roots are all edible! Usually the leaves and flowers are eaten fresh, and the roots are used in herbal teas and tinctures, which can be especially helpful for liver detox. According to Dr. Mercola, "folk medicine claims that the dandelion plant is a powerful healer, used to purify the blood, settle digestion and prevent piles and gallstones, among other maladies. [The] greens of the humble dandelion provide 535% of the recommended daily value of vitamin K, which may be the most important source of any other plant-based food to strengthen bones, but may also play a role in fighting Alzheimer's disease by limiting neuron damage in the brain.
Dandelion greens are usually sold in bunches, and have long, thin leaves like in the photo above. Unlike kale or collards, the stems are not too crunchy and can be eaten along with the leaf. Lucky for us, we have a local farm that grows organic dandelion greens, so they are easy for me to find. Check your local health food store, and if they don't stock them, ask if they will! If your recipe calls for kale, spinach or chard you can easily substitute with dandelion greens. Sometimes they have a bitter flavor, but this can be reduced by blanching, steaming or just using them in combination with other, more mild greens. Don't go around sampling the weeds in the city though– these might have had pesticides on them. If you are going to seek out wild dandelions, do so with the help of a wild foods expert.
My favorite way to eat dandelion greens is just to slice them very thinly (no need to de-stem, remember!) and add to big meal-sized salads. They add a beautiful bright green to any meal and add a nice flavor too. I also use my dandelions to juice. These greens are strong, so for one serving I usually juice about 3-5 leaves only. In combination with some lemon and some celery, it's a green juice to live for!
Here are some recipes from around the web to help you use your dandelion greens in the best ways possible! I hope you find a new love for these beautiful greens!
Dandelion Greens with Double Garlic from Mark Bittman
Dandelion Greens with Mustard Seeds from Nourished Kitchen
Dandelion Pesto from David Lebovitz
Dandelion Greens and Quinoa Salad from Well + Good NYC
... and 10 more dandelion recipes from the Kitchn
... and more dandelion recipes from Whole Foods