Dandelion Greens are More than a Weed

In mid-June, Michael and I took a vacation to Vermont to see our friends who live on their family farm. During the trip, we went hiking and spent a lot of time outdoors. I kept noticing dandelions everywhere – as prominent weeds, on hiking trails, as organic greens sold at the local food co-op, and as seeds flying through the air like snow.

The greens of the dandelion plant are becoming increasingly popular in the culinary world. Our friend’s three children, who are 7, 6 and 4 years old, are used to going out to the garden to pick lettuce and greens for salads, but they had never ventured to the edge of the field to pick wild dandelion greens. Michael and I showed them that the dandelion “weeds” could be an awesome addition to a salad. They thought this was really cool. Their 4 year old son even announced that he was going to eat more of the salad with the dandelion greens because he picked them from the WILD.

Before you forage your own wild dandelion greens, make sure that you never eat any from an area that could have been sprayed with herbicides, lawn treatments or frequently used by dogs as a bathroom. Also, be aware that wild dandelion greens found in public parks might be off limits for you to pick and enjoy – check out what happened in the famous story of “Wildman” Steve Brill in New York City’s Central Park in 1987, by clicking here.  

Dandelion greens are not just good in salads. Their flavor is similar to chicory and endive, which I describe as bitter and hearty. I like to add them to sandwiches instead of leafy green lettuce or use them instead of other “greens” in frittatas or egg scrambles. If you’re not a huge fan of their bitterness, you can offset that flavor by sautéing them with sweet vegetables, like Vidalia onions, carrots and sugar snap peas or make a slightly sweet dressing for salads using pure maple syrup or local honey.

For recipes that use dandelion greens, check out these ideas from Whole Foods Market, by clicking here.

When it comes to the health properties of dandelion greens, a cup of the cooked greens contains 150 mg of calcium—close to 15% of your daily needs—and is an excellent source of vitamins A and C. Jo Robinson, author of Eating on the Wildside, was quoted in an interview on NPR as saying, "Compared to spinach, which we consider a superfood, [a dandelion] has twice as much calcium, and three times as much vitamin A, five times more vitamins K and E, and eight times more antioxidants."

The next time you are considering the type of greens to put in your salad, soup or veggie side dish, take a stroll outside and pick some delicious and highly nutritious dandelion greens!