Most North Americans think of Dandelions as weeds, not food. Considering the state of our health, perhaps we should consider the benefits of this common plant.
You see here what virtues this common herb hath, and that is the reason the French and Dutch so often eat them in the spring; and now if you look a little farther, you may see plainly without a pair of spectacles, that foreign physicians are not so selfish as ours are, but more communicative of the virtues of plants to people.
~ Nicholas Culpeper (1616-1654) English herbalist and physician
Dandelions have their uses in soups, wines and coffees but they render their greatest health benefits when served soon after picking in a raw salad. In fact, the more quickly they can be brought to the table, the more nutrients will be present.
This common plant is easily identified by the coarse toothed edges on the leaves which give them the name of ‘lion’s tooth.’ Dandelion greens should ideally be picked in pesticide free lawns in early spring, prior to the blooming of the bright yellow flowers. The younger leaves are less bitter than older ones.
Here are comparisons of the nutritional values of 100gr of Dandelion greens with an equal quantity of other foods, known for their exceptional vitamin and mineral benefits:
Vitamin A: Dandelions ~ 14,000 IU / Carrots ~ 11,000 IU
Potassium: Dandelions ~ 397 mg / Bananas ~ 370 mg
Iron: Dandelions ~ 3.1 mg / Broiled beef ~ 3.9 mg
Calcium: Dandelions ~ 187 mg / Whole cow’s milk ~ 118 mg
If you find Dandelions too bitter to your taste, it may be best to introduce them into your diet in smaller quantities as shown in the salad above, where they are mixed with spinach, orange peppers and feta cheese, and drizzled with olive oil.