I know, I know. I just wrote an article on the vegetables I eat, but I’ve only begun to experiment with these plants. Also, let’s face it, eating these things in 2020 is kind of bonkers; it deserves its own post.
So where does my dandelion story begin? I had a lot of Italian buddies at high school, and they used to talk derisively about their parents’ old country ways. One of these ways was eating dandelion leaves. I thought it was a bit weird, but never gave it another thought until years later when I caught up with one of these old buddies from high school. His father had been living with cancer for years and at one point it looked like it was the end of the line for him. With nothing to lose, his old boy started eating dandelion soup. Now, I know that correlation does not prove causation, but he did get better after drinking the soup, and he lived for several more years in relatively good health. Incidentally, he was not the only one to purportedly experience the benefits of dandelion soup.
After a few years of my friends dandelion story sitting in the back of my brain, it slowly came to the front. Why not give these leaves a try? Why not do a little research and look into some of the the health benefits. Well, I finally got off my arse and did both.
Dandelions have been eaten for thousands of years. Their first recorded use for medicinal purposes dates back to AD 900 in Persia. Interestingly, the word dandelion is a corruption of the French dent de lion, literally tooth of the lion due to the jagged leaves of the plant. Dandelions were an invasive species brought over to North America, most likely, by English settlers.
These things are packed with goodness. The leaves contain high amounts of vitamins A, C, and K, and are moderate sources of calcium, potassium, iron, lutein and manganese. Better still, they have plenty of phytochemicals, at least if you’re prepared to eat those yellow flowers. The raw flowers contain diverse phytochemicals, including polyphenols, such as flavonoids apigenin, isoquercitrin (a quercetin-like compound), and caffeic acid, as well as terpenoids, triterpenes, and sesquiterpenes. Polyphenols and flavonoids are considered powerful anti-oxidants. Some small studies suggest, surprise, that some of the above nutrients may have cancer killing properties.
So I planted some seeds in my garden about a six weeks ago and today was my first harvest. The salad was very simple: dandelion leaves, a generous glug of olive oil, salt and pepper.
How was it? Pretty bitter, but not horrible. Raw dandelion leaves are not going to win a gold at the taste Olympics. Hell, they’re not getting anywhere near the podium. Still, rocket is an acquired taste too; so is kale for that matter. Given its nutrition profile outlined above, I’m going to continue to give these leaves a chance.
I’m not sure about those flowers though! When I man up and eat those, I’ll let you know.