Superfood of the Week: Dandelion GreensIngredients | Dr. Nishant Rao | December 7, 2009 at 6:51 am
Dandelions! Loved by children and hated by meticulous gardeners, this weed has a new fan group: cooks. Have you noticed dandelion leaves in your produce section or on the menu at your favorite restaurant? This incredibly nutritional plant is definitely making a comeback. Here’s why you should cook some for dinner tonight!
The leaves and roots of the dandelion (Taraxacum officinalis) have been used medicinally for centuries to treat liver, gallbladder, kidney problems, joint problems, weak digestion and constipation.
These days the dandelion root is used to stimulate and cleanse the liver and aid with gastrointestinal conditions, skin conditions and detoxification. The dandelion leaf is a diuretic, so much so that the French word for it is pissenlit which translates directly to “piss in the bed.” The leaves are high in potassium, making them the only naturally occurring potassium-sparing diuretic. They are a natural anti-inflammatory used for edema, joint inflammation, urinary and kidney conditions.
In the kitchen, dandelion leaves have a pleasantly bitter flavor and can be a great addition to a stir fry, soup, raw or cooked salad. This slight bitterness is great for digestion as it stimulates the release of more digestive juices. As a food, dandelion leaves are one of the most nutrient-dense greens around. They are higher in beta-carotene than carrots, have a higher iron content than spinach, and are very rich in calcium, vitamin K, vitamin C, B vitamins, potassium, and manganese.
If you don’t see them in your grocery store, forage for your own! The trick to getting leaves that are not too bitter is to make sure you find the young plants before the flowers appear during early spring. The second season starts after the first frost (that’s now!). Of course, make sure not to harvest near roads or places that herbicides have been sprayed and beware of dandelion look-a-likes. Other weeds that can easily be mistaken for dandelions, so look for pointed leaves, only one flower on each stalk (rather than multiple flowers branching off one stalk), hollow stems with milky latex and no hairs on the plant. Uncertain foragers, go to the farmers’ market or your local grocery store!
- Here’s a simple recipe for sauteed dandelion greens that would be a great side for any dish or a bed for a grilled meat or fish.
- Or for pizza night, try this yummy calzon/pizza recipe
Dr. Nishant Rao is a co-founder of WellWire.com. He is a well-traveled naturopathic doctor and new father, practicing an integrative approach to create wellness in and around Los Angeles. Become a patient or discover his practice.