While looking for something different to do, I came across a ‘class’ that took you outside on a nature walk and specifically showed you edible herbs and other vegetation one could find in the wild! Although I found this extremely interesting, I didn’t do it, but I hope I have the opportunity again to take this walk through the woods. One part I remember reading about in the ad was the nutritional density of dandelions, the tiniest member of the daisy family, or also known as ‘Lions Tooth’.
Have to clarify, I’m not talking about a special kind of dandelion that grows wild in the woods, I’m talking about the little plants that are the bane of our existence if we like perfectly manicured yards. We do everything we can to exterminate them, because they grow so fast, and they tend to make our yards look like they haven’t been mowed in a week, when if fact it was just mowed 2 days ago! I am completely convinced they grow an inch every 5 minutes.
So think again before you slather them with weed killer. These little herbs, are a powerhouse of nutrition and contain many health benefits! (Without a side dish of weedkiller)
Dandelion greens are high in vitamin A, C and K and also provide calcium, some potassium, iron, folate, and magnesium. They also have phytochemicals which are making their debut as a very new area of study and are showing to be extremely important to our over all health. Phytochemicals are essential micronutrients that are contained in plants and are required for human physiological functions that must be obtained though the diet
- Vitamin A- Dandelions contain a special kind of vitamin A, lutein and zeaxanthin. These two forms of Vitamin A accumulate in the retina and are very beneficial in preventing age related macular degeneration.
- Vitamin C- Is a precursor to collagen, which helps build the skin for wound repair, and is also a powerful antioxidant that supports the immune system.
- Vitamin K- Has also been relatively new in clinical trials as of late, and has been found to promote blood clotting, and preventing excess loss of blood.
Dandelions also have several bioactive compounds that work against type 2 diabetes because they are rich in inulin, a type of fiber that stabilizes blood sugar levels. Also having anti-inflammatory and anti oxidant properties, the dandelion may protect against long term complications of diabetes and heart disease.
Our rabbit friends tell us that dandelions are effective at reducing triglycerides and LDL (the bad cholesterol) while raising HDL (the good cholesterol). Although more studies need to be done on this, it is promising for human heart health.
Now that we’ve learned the nutritional impact of delicious dandelion greens, don’t go foraging for them in strange places unless you KNOW beyond doubt that they have not been sprayed or treated with chemicals. It’s probably best to buy them at your local grocery store, or local farmers market where they have been raised specifically for human consumption.
Having said that, I’ve got to be honest! I’ve been walking around my yard collecting the little suckers and putting them in my salad and I’m not dead yet! I also know that I do not chemically treat anything, so I’m relatively sure they are safe for me.
So What Do We Do With Them?
- Fresh young dandelions can be added to to salad mixes. The dandelion blooms (yes the pretty little flower) may also be eaten fresh, and can brighten up a dreary salad, not to mention being a segway into very interesting dinner conversation!
- Dandelion greens can be a bit bitter (spoken from experience) but if you boil them it will reduce bitterness, then you can just pop them into an omlett or frittata just to mention a couple of dishes.
- Roots that are over 2 years old can also be roasted and ground for use as a coffee substitute. Though I have not garnered the initiative to try this, I have seen advertisements of dandelion coffee that I’d love to try since I’m trying to kick the (real) coffee habit. I HAVE tried the mushroom coffee which is actually surprisingly good and also exceedingly nutritious!
Here is a great recipe from Martha Stewart to get you started.
For more information about the nutritional benefits of dandelions, check out Dr Axes’ website at these links: