Ever wondered why certain plants are considered weeds and others are deemed worthy of keeping around?
The herbalists that we work with would tell you there’s no such thing as a “weed”, and that often times the wild plants that sprout up in our well-groomed backyards are encroaching on our lives because we need them.
Today, I want to focus on a bright and cheery superherb that has been aiding humans for thousands of years but somehow gets a bad rap here in the United States. My 6-year-old son is so enchanted by these common flowers that he has coined his own nick-name for them – “wish-makers.”
You might know them as dandelions.
From the spring through early summer and again in the fall, dandelions pop up all over our lawn – but they’re usually weed-whacked away like unwanted pests. What many don’t realize is that they’re destroying a medicinal powerhouse that their bodies often need.
The word dandelion comes from the French “Dent de lion” or “lions tooth,” a reference to their incisor-patterned leaves.
In France, a centuries-old heritage of herbalism plays a large part in their legendary cuisine. Because of its versatility, both as a food and a medicine, the dandelion is a cherished ingredient in prized dishes from Paris to Marseille.
Below, I’m going to share 3 revered recipes that you can make with this often overlooked flower. But first, let’s do a quick run-through of the many health benefits that dandelions so graciously bestow upon us.
1.) Liver health: the dandelion, or Taraxacum officinale is an incredible detoxifier. It contains potent oils and bitter resins that folk healers and doctors have prescribed for liver health for centuries. It also helps to maintain the proper flow of bile while stimulating the liver – this is the beginning of a positive feedback loop or upward spiral, which promotes proper digestion. This in turn decreases the chance of constipation, thus leading to a lower chance of developing more serious gastrointestinal problems.
2.) Anti-aging: the root and leaves of the dandelion are rich in antioxidants such as vitamin C and Luteolin, which prevent free radical damage to our cells and DNA. This is believed to substantially slow the aging process.
3.) Good for Bones: Dandelions are a good source of calcium, and probably the richest herbal source of vitamin K, both of which are great for bone health.
4.) Reduces Inflammation: dandelions contain phytonutrients and essential fatty acids that reduce inflammation in the body.
5.) Potential Anti-cancer Effects: dandelions contain active chemical constituents that are currently being studied for their ability to act against cancer cells. Luteolin, mentioned above, “sterilizes” cancer cells and prevents them from reproducing by deactivating key components of the cells when it binds to them.
6.) Memory function: the leaves are rich in choline which is proven to aid in restoring memory.
7.) Weight Loss & Blood Pressure: dandelions are diuretic in nature and by promoting urination, “water weight” can be shed and blood pressure can be lowered.
Now onto the recipes! We’ve curated these scrumptious morsels from the time-honored cookbooks of French herbalists. I think your taste buds are going to thank you for these 🙂
*You can find dandelion year-round in most health food stores, but if you choose to wild-harvest your own dandelion greens and roots, make sure to pick from a safe location. Stay away from roadsides and unknown yards because toxic pesticides are often used to keep these so-called “weeds” at bay!
Summer Dandelion Salad:
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
4 tables spoons dried dulse
2 tablespoons minced red onion
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 bunch of dandelion greens
2 tablespoons raw pumpkin seed
1 ounce of parmesan cheese (if vegan, substitute with nutritional yeast)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
In a blender, mix the shallot, mustard, vinegar and dulse. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Pour into a small bowl and whisk in the oil in a slow stream.
Rinse / dry the dandelion greens and toss them in a large salad bowl with the dressing.
Lastly, top with either the parmesan or if you are a vegan, substitute with nutritional yeast.
Makes 4 Servings
Garlic Mushroom Dandelion Greens
2 bunches of dandelion greens, lightly chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 red onion, chopped
3 ounces shitake mushrooms, sliced
1/2 cup red cooking wine
4 tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat.
Add the garlic and onion. Sauté for 5 minutes, or until onions are translucent and lightly brown.
Add the shitake mushrooms and cook for another 5 minutes until they have reduced and softened.
Add the dandelion greens, red wine, salt and pepper. Cover the skillet for about 7 minutes, or until the greens have softened.
Serves 4 to 6 people
Dandelion Pesto with Pine Nuts
1 large clove of garlic
1 large bunch of Italian flat leaf parsley
2 cups of chopped dandelion greens
1/2 fresh squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup of pine nuts
3 tbsp parmesan cheese (if you’re a vegan, nutritional yeast is a good substitute!)
1/2 cup of olive oil
Fill a medium-sized sauce pan with water and bring to a boil.
Blanch the greens, by placing the dandelion greens and parsley in the pot, making sure everything is fully submerged. Only cook for 1 minute.
Strain the water from the saucepan and fill again with cold water to halt the cooking process.
Strain the greens again and transfer them into a blender or food processor.
Add the pine nuts, olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, a pinch of sea salt to the mixture and blend until you’ve reached your consistency of choice.
Serves 6 people
Like my grandfather always used to say, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” The dandelion is a great reminder of the hidden treasures that mother nature unfurls right under our noses.
Host of Remedy: Ancient Medicine for Modern Illness
& Founder of The Sacred Science