#FoodFocus – The Dandelion: Weed and Feed

The one thing I am sure to hear every springtime from my children is: “There’s Mom. Eating the weeds again!”

For as long as I can remember, dandelions were a staple green in our home. My mom and her brother and sister would head on out into the wooded area behind our house in Montreal, plastic grocery bags in hand and would spend the morning collecting the fresh greens. I remember her saying that they had to be young enough so as not to have flowered yet, as those were more bitter. They would return with bags and bags of dandelions. Then they would grab some large bowls, sit down and begin cleaning them by cutting the bit of root off and any not-so-desirable outer leaves. Into a pot of salted water they went and soaked for a while. I was told this was to remove some of the bitterness.  Then they would be boiled in fresh water, drained and squeezed into a ball, wrapped in tin foil and frozen, to be used at any time of the year where a bitter green was the right accompaniment for a particular dish. They were typically sauteed in olive oil and lots of garlic and served as a side for a steak dish.

I believe our parents were on the right track when it came to nutritious foods. Dandelions were only one of the many ‘strange foods’ we grew up with. They wasted nothing, grew as much as they possibly could, naturally preserved, canned and bottled. No preservatives. No chemicals. And everything in moderation!

The nutritional benefits of dandelions are many! They are rich in calcium for strong bones, Vitamin A, Vitamin K, Vitamin C, are a good source of dietary fiber and iron and have very high antioxidant properties to fight free radical damage. They have a natural diuretic effect aiding in the elimination of toxins through optimal liver and kidney function. They strengthen the immune system, can help fight diabetes naturally, and the milky substance that oozes out of a cut stem is beneficial for skin infections and irritations. Wow! All that in a weed!

I find it very interesting that scientists have recently been studying the anti-cancer properties and therapeutic benefits of the dandelion root.  Read the article here

Dandelions can be eaten raw, steamed, sauteed. The root can be roasted and ground to make coffee, or steeped in boiling water as a tea. All parts of the plant are edible, including the beautiful bright yellow flowers! Try tossing them in a mixed salad for some lovely colour!

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Dandelion Tea

I still prepare them the traditional way but I simmer them in just enough water that it evaporates, keeping all the goodness from going down the drain. I then toss them into a pan with olive oil and garlic slices, salt and pepper to taste and saute them for a few minutes. In the plate, I drizzle with EVOO and sprinkle with hot chili pepper flakes or even Parmesan cheese (or both).

 

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Dandelion Greens with Olive Oil and Chili Pepper Flakes

 

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Dandelion Greens with Shaved Parmesan Cheese

If you’re going to pick some dandelion weeds for your next salad or side dish, please make sure they are growing in a clean area without pesticide use or pollutants. You can purchase them at your grocery store or, do like I do and dedicate an area in your own backyard for these nutritious and delicious greens. I have been harvesting and enjoying them all summer long!

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Dandelion Greens

My husband is not Italian. His diet growing up was very different than mine. However, that never stopped me from introducing him to the foods I grew up with. In our house, no one is allowed to say they don’t like something until they have tasted it. It’s as simple as that. Both my young adult children enjoy dandelions. Hubby? Not yet.

 

Someone has to stand up and say the answer isn’t another pill. The answer is spinach. —Bill Maher, 2007

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