You either love it or hate it when you see this die-hard weed with its sunny blooms that immediately conjure up a happy smiley face. I speak of none other than the ever-present, indestructible dandelion weed.
I once visited my relatives in Germany in May, and was greeted with this happy plant everywhere I went. Open fields, sides of the road, even grass on side walks in the meticulously organized German villages. In South Africa we have a different climate and are not greeted with such an abundance of bright yellow nuggets scattered all over.
After moving to NJ in the US, I quickly discovered how this weed can be a menace for every gardener who wants a pretty looking lawn. Yes, back in the days I wanted that too…and if you – hopefully! – wish to avoid any form of weed killer it is pretty hard work each spring and well into summer to dig up these little buggers as they are stubbornly and solidly rooted in the soil.
And here’s the clue! This weed is a master at survival, and it is precisely this quality which makes it an indispensable part of an anti-cancer kitchen! The name alone gives it away: in Latin, dent leo means “tooth of the lion”.
As cancer survivors, we all want some of that life energy, right?
Dandelion, both leaves and roots, whether grown wild (recognizable due to its ragged leaves) or cultivated (much smoother leaves as seen in the cultivars sold in most supermarkets), is chock full of medicinal benefits.
- stimulates digestive function through its bitter qualities and increased bile flow
- supports key organs of detoxification such as the kidneys, liver and stomach
- acts as a diuretic and natural laxative
- regulates blood sugar levels
- anti-oxidant as one cup has a whooping amount of carotenoid that matches almost a daily requirement of the vital Vitamin A and nearly a third of a daily dose of Vitamin C
- has twice the amount of calcium and iron than broccoli has
- high in potassium, an important electrolyte that helps regulate sodium levels and the acid-alkaline balance in the body
- high amount of inulin, an indigestible carbohydrate that feeds healthy gut bacteria
Who would not want to take a scrumptious bite after knowing what kind of a nutritional powerhouse this weed is? So how do we prepare it then?
Dandelion greens can be found in most supermarkets for most of the year, spring will present them with the longest and most lush looking leaves. Use them in salads, either on their own or mixed in with other greens, sautéed, in sandwiches, in pestos or hummus or even juiced or in Smoothies. The latter is my favorite way of including greens in my daily diet.
How about using the root too, if you happen to be industrious enough to dig them up from your yard. Peel them and sauté them in a little water until tender, serving them with some grass-fed butter or virgin coconut oil and a little salt & pepper.
Roasted Dandelion root tea, available in organic sections of most supermarkets now, is an excellent way to wean yourself of a “too-much- coffee” habit. Dandelion leaf tea is great to use during a spring cleanse, or whenever you feel your body could use an extra detox boost in a most gentle way.
Here’s a quick and delicious Dandelion Greens Salad I often make.
- 2 bunches of dandelion greens, tough stems removed, greens portions sliced into thin strips
- 1 small red onion
- 2 garlic cloves
- ¼ cup goji berries, pre-soaked in cold water for about 10 minutes
- 2 golden beets, roasted and thinly sliced
- 2 tablespoons raw pine nuts
- ¼ cup (+1 teaspoon for sautéing onion) extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 1 teaspoon Himalayan Sea Salt
- 4 swirls with black pepper mill
- pinch of cayenne pepper (optional, for a little kick)
1. Pre-roast golden beets: wash, pat dry and wrap whole root in unbleached parchment paper and secure parcel with aluminum foil. Roast at 400 F for 45-60 minutes, until a fork is easily inserted.
2. Pre-soak goji berries (this avoids them “stealing” too much of the vinaigrette to plump up).
3. Sweat the onion in a little olive oil for 2-3 minutes, add the crushed garlic for another minute, remove from heat.
4. Combine all salad ingredients in a large bowl.
5. Whisk together vinaigrette ingredients separately, add to salad and toss gently until well coated.
Serve as a side salad, or turn into a main salad by adding some protein, such as chunks of grilled wild salmon, roasted chicken, French lentils or even stir-fried tempeh. Try this mouthwatering Dandelion Seed Pesto.
Makes approx. 1 cup
- 1 bunch dandelion greens, long stems removed, coarsely chopped
- 1 cup sunflower seeds, roasted
- 3 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1-2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
- ¼- ½ teaspoon Himalayan sea salt
- 2-4 swirls with black pepper mill
- pinch of cayenne pepper (optional for a little kick)
- 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
1. Roast the sunflower seeds in a dry skillet for about 4-6 minutes, shaking the pan constantly to avoid burning.
2. Add to a food processor and pulse together with the minced garlic.
3. Add the remaining ingredients and process until smooth. You may have to scrape down the sides occasionally.
4. If the pesto is too thick, add a little more olive oil.
Serve with freshly sliced carrot, celery or kohlrabi sticks, add to a pasta dish, a soup or a stew or liquefy it more by adding some water or more olive oil and use it as a thick vinaigrette for a hardy kale salad.
The New Whole Foods Encycopedia by Rebecca Wood
The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods by Michael Murray, ND
Pesto recipe inspired by a recipe found online at “thekitchn”