Go Wild with Dandelion Greens

You might not want dandelions (Taraxacum officinale) dappled across your lawn, but you'll definitely want to make them a part your healthy diet. For centuries, the sunny yellow dandelion, its greens and roots, has been embraced across cultures for its culinary and medicinal uses.

Dandelion roots contain several compounds beneficial to health, one of which is bitter taraxacin, which stimulates digestion. The leaves are rich in potassium, antioxidants such as Vitamin A and Vitamin C, Vitamin K, and several B vitamins.

Dandelion helps filter waste products from the bloodstream. In many cultures it has been used as a liver tonic, diuretic, and digestive aid. Herbalists have used dandelion to treat jaundice, cirrhosis and liver dysfunction. Preliminary research suggests dandelion may even strengthen liver and gallbladder function.

All parts of the dandelion are edible. The bittersweet roots may be eaten raw, steamed or dried, roasted and ground for a coffee substitute. The flowers are commonly used to make wine and jam. Dandelion greens can be eaten steamed, boiled, sautéed, braised or raw in a salad.

Try adding dandelion greens to:

  • quiche, omelette
  • pesto
  • sauce such as garlic & olive oil
  • dips
  • seafood soup
  • sauteed vegetables
  • to replace some of the kale in a green smoothie
  • stuffing

Dandelion packs as much power in its flavor as it does in its nutrition. It can quickly overpower more delicate herbs and flavors-a little goes a long way.

When harvesting dandelion, especially for salad, take greens from young and tender plants, before the first flowers emerge. Greens from older plants will be larger, but also tougher and more bitter, so older leaves are better suited for cooking. At the grocery store, look for organic dandelion greens with vibrant green color.