- Nutrition -

Dandelion Greens

They may look like pesky weeds, but these greens deserve a place on your plate.

dandelion leaves

Food Basics

An herbaceous perennial, the dandelion is a completely edible plant. Its roots can be boiled or stir-fried as a vegetable and its flowers sautéed. The plant’s leaves — called dandelion greens — may be eaten raw or cooked, just like spinach. Buttery soft, dandelion greens have a pleasantly bitter, earthy flavor, with a “bite” similar to that of escarole. Dandelions grow wild across North America. When cultivated, the greens are long and slender. When picking or purchasing, look for bright green, firm leaves and thin stems. Avoid picking dandelion greens along roadsides or other areas where herbicides, pesticides or other chemicals may have
been sprayed.

Nutritional Know-How

The dandelion has long been prized for its medicinal qualities. A 1-cup serving of raw, chopped dandelion greens includes a whopping 535 percent of your recommended daily amount of vitamin K, 112 percent of vitamin A, 32 percent of vitamin C, 10 percent of calcium, and 9 percent of iron. It also contains omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, and protein. Well known for their laxative and diuretic properties, dandelion greens help boost digestion. They also reduce swelling and inflammation and support healthy teeth, gums and skin.

Eat Up!

  • Raw or wilted dandelion greens are delicious alone in salads or when mixed with other lettuces. Tart dressings, such as warm bacon, sherry wine or balsamic vinaigrette, complement them well.
  • To create an energizing smoothie, blend fresh dandelion greens with fresh pears (or any other fruit), ginger, fresh-squeezed lemon juice, whey protein powder, a touch of yogurt and enough water to blend.
  • Stir sliced or shredded dandelion greens into bean dishes during the last 10 minutes of cooking.
  • Substitute dandelion greens in soup or stew recipes that call for spinach or kale.
  • Prepare quick, delicious braised dandelion greens by heating 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Stir in 2 teaspoons of slivered garlic cloves, ½ teaspoon crushed red chilies, 4 cups washed, stemmed and chopped dandelion greens, and ½ cup chicken or vegetable stock. Season with fresh ground black pepper and sea salt.

Kitchen Tricks

  • Forage for wild dandelion greens (only from clean, non-pesticide-treated places) during early spring before the plant flowers, because that’s when the leaves are most tender. Harvest bunches with small leaves along with the base.
  • To store, first soak briefly in cool water, drain, and spin off excess water. Then wrap with paper towel and store in a plastic bag. Refrigerated in the crisper, greens will keep three to four days.
WEB EXTRA!

Hot Pennsylvania Dutch Dandelion Potato Salad

Makes eight servingsThis is a variation on a salad that my assistant Heidi ate growing up in Pennsylvania. Every spring her family would harvest the tender spring dandelion greens and her dad would prepare a similar salad.

  • 4 cups young dandelion greens, stems removed, chopped into 1-inch pieces
  • 4 cups boiled red skin potatoes, sliced into ½-inch slices
  • 2 hard-boiled eggs, sliced into eight slices each
  • 1 tbs. chopped fresh chives

For the dressing:

  • 1 tbs. peanut oil
  • 2 thick slices bacon, finely chopped
  • 1 tbs. finely chopped red onion
  • 2 tbs. honey
  • 1 tbs. Dijon mustard
  • 2 tbs. apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup milk mixed with 1 tbs. cornstarch
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/8 tsp. sea salt

Wash dandelions and pick over carefully. Roll in cloth and pat dry and place into a salad bowl. Make the dressing as the potatoes are boiling. You want the potato slices to be warm when tossing and serving this salad. For the dressing: Heat the oil in a medium saucepan. Add the chopped bacon and cook until lightly brown. Add the red onion and cook one minute until translucent. Whisk in honey to coat the bacon pieces. Stir in remaining ingredients and whisk to thicken, about two minutes. To serve: Pour the warm potatoes and dressing over the dandelion greens and toss gently. Place the sliced egg and chives on top of the salad and serve. Per serving: Calories 150; protein 5g; total fat 4.5g; saturated fat 1.5g; carbohydrates 24g; dietary fiber 2g; cholesterol 55mg; sodium 160mg

WEB EXTRA!

Lentil Soup With Dandelion Greens

Makes 12 (1-cup) servings

  • 1/4 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped yellow onion
  • 1 cup chopped carrot
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 1 tsp. minced garlic
  • 2 cups lentils (about 1 pound), washed
  • 1 (28-ounce) can stewed tomatoes, diced in their juice
  • 8 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp. chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. paprika
  • 1 tsp. dried basil
  • 1 tsp. sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups dandelion greens (remove and discard tough stems, chop greens into 1-inch dice)

Heat the olive oil in a medium stockpot over medium-high heat. Add the onion, carrot, celery, and garlic and cook until the onion has softened, about two minutes. Stir in the lentils, tomatoes, stock, bay leaf, cayenne, chili powder, cumin, paprika, basil, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until lentils have softened, about 20 minutes. During last 10 minutes of cooking, stir in dandelion greens. Remove the bay leaf before serving. Per serving:  Calories 170; protein 11g; total fat 1g; saturated fat 0g; carbohydrates 33g; dietary fiber 7g; cholesterol 0mg; sodium 400mg

WEB EXTRA!

Dandelion Salad With Balsamic Vinaigrette

Makes four salads

  • 1/4 cup julienne red onion
  • 1 medium tomato, concasse-peeled, de-seeded and finely chopped
  • 3 cups fresh dandelion greens, stems removed and discarded
  • 1 tbs. thinly sliced fresh basil
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. sea salt
  • 2 tsp. of balsamic syrup for garnish, purchased in vinegar section of grocery store

In a mixing bowl, toss all ingredients except balsamic syrup. Divide salad among four salad plates and drizzle each with ½ teaspoon balsamic syrup.

Per serving:

Calories 100; protein 1g; total fat 7g; saturated fat 1g; carbohydrates 9g; dietary fiber 2g; cholesterol 0mg; sodium 180mg

Chef Cary Neff is the president of the consulting firm Culinary Innovations and the author of the New York Times bestseller Conscious Cuisine (Sourcebooks, 2002).

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