Sunday, June 19, 2011

Dandelion Allies

During the summer months, while stomping around our 10 acre’s, I’m often inspired by the wild greens that grow around our place, as I can easily turn them into tasty and nutritious foods for our table. One of my favorites is the common Dandelion - Taraxacum officinale. In the spring, I harvest the flowering parts of Dandelions and fold them into my favorite pancake recipe to make tasty and pretty, Dandelion pancakes. The flowers nourish the nervous system as well as the heart.

I love to steam the spring greens and eat then with lemon and pepper or put into homemade soups and beans. Most people don’t realize that the poor misunderstood Dandelion is full of vitamins, minerals, and is a lot more beneficial than the majority of the bland and processed green foods we are accustomed to buying and the grocery store.

According to Linda Runyon, the author of a popular book titled “Crabgrass Muffins and Pine Needle Tea”, one half cup of chopped raw dandelion greens tossed into a salad adds a mere 21 calories, but, also amps up the protein by as much as 2.7 grams! That’s not all, as they also add 9.2 grams of carbohydrates, 187 mg of calcium, 3 mg of iron, 398 mg of potassium, 30 mg of ascorbic acid, 800 micrograms of beta carotene, 200 micrograms of thiamin, 3 mg of iron, 300 micrograms of riboflavin and 900 micrograms of niacin to your salad.

Now sometimes in the summer months, I find that raw dandelion greens can be tough and the big leaves are bitter so don’t use those. One way I get around that is to add them to a raw Mediterranean Kale salad. I got my recipe from Jennifer Cornbleet’s book titled “Raw Food Made Easy for 1 or 2 people”. The recipe calls for using;

4 kale leaves with stems removed then thinly sliced, (I also add ½ cup of thinly sliced dandelion leaves)
1.5 tsp olive oil
1.5 tsp fresh lemon juice
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 to 1/2 diced red bell pepper
1 tbsp or more pine nuts
1 tbsp sliced black olives – I use Kalamata’s
Fresh ground pepper to taste.

I increase the olive oil and lemon juice to 1 tablespoon because I believe it’s tastier that way. The trick to this is to begin by placing the greens in a large bowl with the fresh lemon juice, olive oil and salt. Then using clean hands, in the bowl, rub the greens between your fingers to work the oil, salt and lemon juice into the greens. Do this for several minutes and it will actually tenderize the greens. Then you add the red pepper, pine nuts and olives then mix it all together with a spoon. I let this sit for about 15 minutes before I eat it. This recipe will keep in the fridge for about 3 days, that is if you have any left and can keep yourself from eating it before the 3 days is over, LOL!!! I certainly can’t.

What other parts are left to eat? Oh, the root! Roasted Dandelion root makes a nice herbal brew that actually tastes like weak coffee. I don’t usually roast the root myself but buy it from an herbal supplier such as I buy it occasionally and use it in the nutritional herbal brews I make using Stinging Nettle and Oatstraw, but I’ll save that recipe for another blog post. The root of the dandelion is best when harvested in the fall when the plant is sending all of its energy and nutrition to the root for storage through the winter. I rarely find those lovely half inch diameter roots to use in stews but when I do, I whip up a batch of vegetable stew and include some scrubbed and coarsely chopped dandelion root about 30 minutes before serving. The small ones work too, but they are a bit harder to work with. Not only is the root full of minerals and some vitamins, but it’s also nourishment and a tonic for your liver. By that, I mean that it feeds it and assists it in pumping out the bile needed for digestion.

The only thing that a someone new to eating Dandelions needs to know is that all parts of the Dandelion do have laxative and diuretic properties, so it’s wise to begin eating small amounts, like one half cup or less, at first to see how your body responds to this awesome ally. So if you have a bunch of Dandelions in your yard that have not been sprayed with poisons or bodily fluids from your pets…. Pick some smaller leaves, swish them in a bowl of cold water and begin adding them to a nice summer salad. Oh, you can also pick some of the sunny flowers and shake or blow off the ants (they love the nectar and pollen), and cut the green parts off with a knife and add those, unwashed, to your salad. Your body will love you for it and it is a fantastic way to start learning about the herbal allies you have right in your own back or front yard.

I would love to hear about your experiences with Dandelions so feel free to add them to the comment section.


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