The Poor Man’s Kale

When my sister and I were in the 3rd and 4th grade, my parents, especially my dad, loved to go in the back yard and pick dandelion greens for dinner.  Nancy and I sat on the picnic table and we both said, ‘We’re not eating that!’

Photo: Beeblebrox/Wikipedia. A dandelion growing in a yard.

Beeblebrox/Wikipedia.

I mean really! Who digs up weeds from their yard and eats them? It was embarrassing. But I understood why he did it – he was a child of the Great Depression era. No food was to be wasted in our household. He was always thrifty.

Well, my taste buds have done a complete turn around.  Now that I’m a senior citizen I think dandelions are 3rd on my list of favorite vegetables.  They’re especially good after boiling or steaming them and add butter, salt, pepper, cooked chopped onions and bacon. — My aunt Joan

Unlike kale, dandelions are much easier to get a hold of since they grow pretty much everywhere. These hardy weeds have been used for centuries in Eastern medicine for liver and digestive health. They’re also often used as a natural diuretic. But you might be surprised that dandelions can also be used to:

  • regulate blood glucose levels
  • treat arthritis, cancer and urinary tract infections
  • cleanse and detoxify the liver
  • treat skin conditions such as acne

5 Simple Ways To Use Dandelions

Like my aunt Joan you might be a little squeamish about it at first, but go ahead and give it a try. Dandelions are packed with phytonutrients including phosphorus, potassium, beta carotene, magnesium, B vitamins, iron and calcium.

The best way to get a hold of some dandelions is to harvest them from your yard. Everything from the root, stem, leaves and flower can be used. Use dandelion leaves in early spring before the flowers appear. This is the time that the leaves will be the least bitter, but be sure to wash and thoroughly dry the leaves so they don’t get waterlogged. Dandelion roots are best dug up in early spring or late fall. They’re especially rich in potassium and a substance called inulin which can help diabetics regulate blood sugar.

Here are 5 simple ways to add dandelions to your diet.

  1. Add dandelions to your salad. If you have fresh dandelions, add them to your salad. I like to chop them into herb-size pieces and mix them into my salad greens. You can even eat the dandelion flower, which is a good source of lecithin. Cut the green part off the base of the flower so they won’t taste bitter.
  2. Juice or blend your dandelions. Juicing is a great way to get all the benefits of dandelions, but you can also make a green smoothie. The great part about adding them to a smoothie is you can add the whole dandelion–flower, stem, root and leaf–and get the fiber to boot.
  3. Make dandelion tea. Use dried dandelion leaves, root or both to make a soothing tea. When I don’t have time to make a salad or fresh juice, dandelion tea is the perfect thing. Plus it helps me in my quest to drink more water.
  4. Saute the greens with onions, garlic and olive oil. This is a very tasty way to eat dandelion leaves and you can also add bacon to make it a complete meal.
  5. Add dandelion roots to soup stock. Slice the root into 1/8 – 1/4″ pieces and add to soup stock. You’ll have a great-tasting soup that has all the liver-enhancing benefits of the dandelion root.

How do you get your dandelions and what do you with them?

About Laura

Laura is passionate about food from real farmers and artisans. She lives with her husband in Grand Rapids on the river. Sometimes it flows over, but mostly she is greeted by the ducks, geese and her neighbor's chickens. They like to hop up on her windowsill and eat the spiders. Yay! She's the co-founder of Two Sister Organics, a natural and organic skin care company.

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