It’s the time of the year when you see yellow flowers everywhere. Dandelions are a part of the sunflower family, which is the largest plant family. Sunflower seeds are easily available at any grocery store and commonly used as salad toppings, in baking, and as part of trail mix. Then, are dandelions edible as well?
YES, they are and have massive health benefits!
As I mentioned in “Prebiotic foods”, dandelion greens are prebiotics (food for probiotics) which help to balance the beneficial bacteria in the intestines. Also, they are a good digestive aid, as they contain high fiber to support elimination.
Last weekend, my daughter and I gathered plenty of young dandelion greens and decided to cook them for dinner. We separated the roots and leaves (roots also have health benefits, but it was hard to pull out whole roots, so we decided to eat only leaves), rinsed them well, and cooked them with potatoes and red kidney beans. This is the way my mother-in-law cooks dandelions and it is called “Minestra”. My husband and his family came from Italy and this was introduced as “comfort food” from back home. I never had dandelion greens until I met him and I really enjoyed it when I first tried it.
This is how to make Minestra: 1) cook dandelion greens with olive oil, 2) add largely chopped potatoes into the pot, 3) add some water, 4) add a can of kidney beans, and 5) cook until potatoes are soft. That’s all! Add salt for taste and olive oil for flavor. It is a kind of soup, but my children liked eating it with crackers.
My aunt from Italy suggested to use a pan for fast cooking. She also adds a variety of available ingredients from
the fridge into Minestra, and especially cooking with ribs is her favorite.
So, I tried stir fry dandelion greens with purple onions and carrots. I sprinkled some pumpkin seeds for extra protein. It was also easy and delicious. You can cook dandelion greens with anything you have and eat with anything you want; as a side dish, or in a sandwich, or wrap.
Dandelion greens can taste a little bitter, so some suggest to cook them in boiling water for 20 to 30 seconds to help reduce the bitterness before adding them to salads or sandwiches. Others recommended to leave them in the water for a couple of hours to help reduce this distinct taste. I believe that cooking too long could reduce nutrients, so I used the latter method: leave in the water for a while to lessen the bitterness.
Here are some remarkable health benefits;
- High in Calcium (four times more than broccoli)
- Rich in Iron (twice more than spinach)
- Antioxidants (high in vitamin A as beta-carotene, has vitamin C which helps facilitate iron absorption)
- Super rich in vitamin K (to help strengthen bones)
- Dandelion roots are used as a detoxifier and may provide benefits as a cancer fighter
- Contain lots of other vitamins and minerals (vitamin B1, B2, B6 and more)
- Anti-inflammatory (may provide benefits in combating inflammatory diseases)
- High fiber (to support elimination)
How do you eat dandelion greens?
When I was in Japan, I never thought that dandelions could be edible. I asked one of my co-workers from Poland if she ever had it back home, but she said she never had it, either in Poland or Canada.
In North America nowadays, typical ways to use dandelion greens seem to be salad, soup, and smoothies. People are treating dandelion greens like any other green vegetable.
It was surprising to me, but Japanese people also eat dandelion greens as well. Some examples are: as a part of tempura, cooked with butter and soy sauce, mixed with sesame paste, and so on.
If you have not tried dandelion greens yet, I suggest you should try it at least once. You will be amazed how tasty it is (even though it has a slightly bitter taste), and how economical a food it is (pick from your back yard, a park, or any open field that has not used pesticides or herbicides). Adding this super green vegetable into your diet may promote not only intestinal health, but also overall well-being.
All is well and all the best!