Spring is here! That means that fresh greens are too. One of my favorite spring greens are dandelion greens. Yep, same dandelion as the lovely little yellow flower that grows in your yard! Dandelion is a powerhouse of nutrition. Dandelions were traditionally eaten as a spring tonic, and are perfect for cleansing! I love to include them in green smoothies. Like all bitter greens, they encourage secretion of digestive enzymes. They are also very supportive to the liver and kidneys, and help cleanse the system of toxins. On top of all that, dandelion greens are chock-full of vitamin A, vitamin C, iron and calcium!
In addition to the greens, the flowers and the roots can also be used culinarily and medicinally. Dandelion root tea - also known as chicory - is a wonderfully robust, dark, strong-bodied beverage that makes a satisfying coffee replacement. It is also very liver-cleansing, and is delicious. Dandelion root is also used to make one of my favorite beverages, Dandy Blend. Dandelion root extracts are mixed with water soluble extracts of barley and rye (it is gluten free how they brew it, read about it here) and it makes the most awesome coffee-like beverage EVER. I got my mom and a bunch of my friends hooked on this stuff. Dandelion flowers can be added to teas or water kefir to make cleansing beverages or tinctures. Or, of course, the infamous dandelion wine. :)
If you have a yard that is free of any pesticides or herbicides (or dog pee!) go ahead and pick those dandelion greens and eat them! If you don't have access to pure dandelion greens (like me), you can find them at well-stocked grocery stores or natural foods markets. There are red and green varieties; the color refers to the stem, not the leaves. They taste the same, and once cooked, the red is barely noticeable, so either way is fine. When selecting dandelion greens, look for fresh, unmarked leaves that have sturdy stems - you don't want them wilty or brown. Wrapped well, they will easily store for a few days in the refrigerator. You can eat them raw, but they are rather bitter, so use them in smoothies or combine them with other greens for salads.
My favorite way to eat dandelion greens is sauteed with garlic. If you follow the blog, you probably know I like just about anything sauteed with garlic, but bitter greens like dandelion really take well to being dowsed with olive oil and garlic, wow. Lately I have been mixing them with spinach, and adding a sprinkle of smoked salt and toasted pine nuts, sunflower seeds, or pumpkin seeds. Last night I decided to add a little smoked chicken I found at the co-op - locally smoked, free roam chicken? Yes please.
Smoky Dandelion Greens with Spinach and Pine Nuts
Yield: 2-3 servings | Active time: 5 minutes | Total time: 15 minutes
This recipe is so simple, but so satisfying, and takes only minutes to prepare. I like the added crunch of toasted pine nuts, but feel free to omit and serve without, or substitute another nut or seed of your choice. Walnuts or sunflower seeds would also be delicious! Smoked salt really finishes this dish off, if you have it, but regular salt will also do the trick. If desired, add a sprinkling of finely diced smoked chicken, ham, or turkey, or if soy-tolerant, smoked tofu or tempeh for extra protein and flavor. So good, so easy!
1 bunch dandelion greens
2-3 cups packed spinach
6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1/4 cup broth or water
1-2 Tbsp olive oil
2-3 Tbsp toasted pine nuts
optional: 2-4 oz smoked chicken, turkey, ham, or smoked tofu or tempeh (if soy-tolerant)
smoked sea salt (or regular sea salt)
freshly cracked pepper, to taste
Heat olive oil in a saute pan over medium-low heat. Add thinly sliced garlic and saute 1-2 minutes until softened and golden, but not brown. Watch heat closely, don't let the garlic burn! Then add dandelion greens and spinach, pour in liquid, and cover tightly. Let cook 5-7 minutes over medium-low heat, until greens are tender. Remove cover and cook additional 1-2 minutes, until most of the moisture cooks off. Remove from heat.
While greens are cooking, heat a heavy-bottomed saute pan over medium-low heat, then add pine nuts and toast until golden brown and fragrant. Remove from heat and set aside. If using, finely dice the chicken or other smoked meat/tofu/tempeh.
Transfer greens to a serving dish and sprinkle with pine nuts and chicken, smoked sea salt, and freshly cracked pepper.