Most of us are familiar with dandelions as those little weeds to make a wish on, as we blow all the fuzzy little pompoms off the stem. But, did you know that the greens of the dandelion plant are actually a superfood? They contain more antioxidants than a carrot, can surpass the protein content of spinach, and will nudge kale out of the running with a higher calcium count. Yep, these backyard plants may be getting an unfair reputation. It is time to think twice before you break out the weed whacker. Sure, they are slightly bitter, but I find that the more peppery and tangy the leaf the more super in nutrients. So in this case, bitter is better.
Note to self: Forage safely. Although there is something magical about gathering your ingredients for your Sunday picnic lunch, you never know what kind of toxins from pesticides could be lurking. Your best bet is to harvest the plant at your own home or purchase organic dandelion from your local grocer or farmers market.
The Health Benefits of Dandelion Greens
1. They are full of essential vitamins
It can often be challenging for vegans or vegetarians to meet the RDA of essential vitamins and minerals. Luckily, dandelion can help get you closer to your goals, along with a little creative food combining. Vitamins like B, C and A, along with iron make dandelion a nutrient-dense contender.
2. They contain bone-healthy minerals
Dandelion has some pretty solid bone-supporting minerals like calcium. One cup of raw dandelion contains 103mg of calcium, in fact. Bonus: this gracious green also includes vitamin K, which acts as another vital bone strengthener.
3. They act as a detoxifier
Dandelion works in your body as a diuretic by helping to increase the pace in which we flush out fluids. It is important to cleanse our kidneys by keeping the flow of toxins out, and the process of sodium moving in and out through our system healthily. Try brewing dandelion tea or the root and add some to your bottled water to sip throughout the day as a tonic.
4. They are good for the gut
Dandelion contains soluble fiber. Ah, I can already feel the relief just saying “fiber.” If you suffer from bloat, too much acid or tummy discomfort from feeling stopped up, dandelion can provide soothing comfort to an achy intestine by helping things move along.
5. They help combat muscle aches
Athletes, listen up! Muscle recovery plays a vital role in our fitness life. Due to the antioxidant and chemical plant nutrients, aka phytonutrients, dandelions’ anti-inflammatory properties could help combat sore, swollen and achy muscles.
Dandelion Spring Salad w/ Anchovy-Lemon Dressing
FOR THE SALAD:
One Bunch Dandelion Greens
1/2 Cup Sliced Red, Black or Watermelon Radish
1/4 Cup Sugar Snap Peas (leave some whole and shell a few to sprinkle in the salad – use the pea shoots too!)
FOR THE DRESSING:
2 Anchovy Filets
1 Lemon, Juiced
1/4 Cup Avocado Oil
1 Small Garlic Clove, Minced
Fresh Ground Pepper to taste
Salt to taste
Make the dressing: In a food processor, pulse the anchovy and lemon juice. Add the oil in a steady stream while the processor is on low. Finish it off with a grind or two of fresh pepper from a mill, and salt if desired. (Remember those little anchovies can be overpowering in salty favor, so you may not need any salt at all)
Prepare the salad: Tear the leaves into bite-size pieces. Toss with dressing to coat leaves. Add the rest of ingredients and toss. Drizzle more dressing as desired. This salad is lovely as is but you could add a grilled protein or toasted nuts like walnuts or pecans.