dandy ways to love your liver
Posted by Andrea Nakayama
Yesterday I noticed that the dogwood tree outside of my son Gilbert’s window is finally in full bloom.
That tree is one reason we bought this house.
My late husband Isamu and I stood gazing at those pink buds imagining them outside Gilbert’s window, a reflection of his growth and development each year. But we came to look at this house in mid-April eighteen years ago, and that tree was in full bloom then. We’re now fresh into May. Spring has come late this year, but at last, it’s here!
The earth has opened to provide new growth and we get to reap the benefits!
Among the many benefits of spring are fresh, young, leafy greens. In myriad places around the globe the color green itself symbolizes spring. It’s the perfect time to bask in the emerald bounty.
Spring leafy greens include:
- beet greens
- dandelion greens
- spring green lettuce mixes
- swiss chard
- turnip greens
- mustard greens
- collard greens
- all the raabs
- spring mache
It’s interesting to note that many of these green leafies protect themselves from herbivores by becoming very bitter as the weather becomes hotter. That makes spring, when they first bud, the ideal time to harvest and enjoy their fresh young leaves. They’re easier to eat raw now because their flavor is sweeter and they need less preparation.
A number of years ago, I completed some genomic testing that allowed me to look at aspects of my DNA in relation to weight and taste tendencies (among other things). One thing the testing told me was that I have enhanced bitter taste perception. It noted that I may not like the flavor of vegetables and leafy greens.
That seemed absurd to me when I first read it!
I eat plenty of vegetables and leafy greens all day long. (If you follow me on Instagram, you’ve likely seen that I’ve been indulging in the green juices and smoothies of late, while I embark on a personal spring cleanse.) I originally laughed those results off until I decided to take on dandelion greens for the first time.
It was then that I had to confront my bitter perception of this pungent green…
We’ve tried dandelions lots of ways since that initial taste test and this salad cut the bitter taste just enough to stand above the rest and win over the hearts and taste buds in my household.
If you have a dandy dandelion recipe, I’d love to know it! Share it with us on the Functional Nutrition Alliance Facebook page.
To spring days and dandelion wishes.
Dandelion Salad with Sun-dried Tomato Macadamia Nut “Cheese”
It’s interesting that many consider the dandelion a weed, and it is! Yet ask any herbalist and they will tout the valuable attributes of the dandelion leaf and root.
Though I struggled with the bitter taste, I’m determined to get more dandelions into my spring diet. This turned out to be a delightful way to do so.
For the Salad
- 1 bunch young dandelion greens
- 1/2 tspn Himalayan or salt
- 2-3 small cloves of garlic, chopped
- 1 Tbspn toasted sesame oil
- 1-1/2 tspn apple cider vinegar
- black pepper
- hemp seeds (optional)
- halved cherry tomatoes (optional)
Thoroughly wash the dandelion greens and pat them dry. Chop them into ribbons about 1/2-inch wide. Place in a bowl. Add the salt and, using a clean hand, mix the salt into the greens with a bit of a massaging action.
Place the chopped garlic in a saute pan with a couple of tablespoons of water, just enough to lightly cover the bottom of the pan. Saute the garlic, stirring frequently, until the water evaporates and the garlic just starts to brown. Remove the garlic from the pan into a small bowl.
Add both the oil and the vinegar to the bowl with the garlic and whirl to combine. Pour the dressing over the dandelion greens and, once again, using a clean hand, massage the dressing into the salad.
Sprinkle some black pepper and top with your desired ingredients. I love the Sun-Dried Macadamia Nut “Cheese” on mine! Serves 1-2.
For the Sun-dried Tomato Macadamia Nut “Cheese”
- 2 cups raw unsalted macadamia nuts
- 1 tspn himalayan or salt
- juice from 1/2 medium lemon
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/3 cup oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, drained
- 3 Tbspn nutritional yeast
Place all of the “cheese” ingredients in a high speed blender or food processor. Process until it is combined and crumbly, similar to ricotta cheese. Add a scoop to your dandelion greens or other salads. Store it in a glass container in the fridge for up to a week. Yields 1 3/4 cups of “cheese”.
And one more dandy tip! If you find the dandelion greens to be too bitter (even with proper preparation), you can make a 50/50 salad and mix your dandelion with milder greens like mâche or spinach.
I love thinking about the energy of the dandelion. No matter how many ways we try to destroy them, they keep coming back. Rebecca Wood calls this “a meal ticket for herbicide producers”. That stealthy persistence is something we could all use a little of. (Of course we’d want to be loved like the French love their dandelion greens and not loathed like the Americans loathe the weeds on their lawn!)
The name dandelion is a contortion of the French dent-de-lion, which means tooth of the lion. These teeth describe the jagged edges of the leaves.
The Health Benefits of Dandelion Greens
- Dandelions are among the most nutritious leafy greens that you can consume. They contain a good amount of calcium, iron, antioxidant carotenoids and vitamin C (higher than carrot!).
- Dandelion greens are an outstanding bitter tonic for the entire digestive system, improving the function of the stomach, kidneys and our friend the liver. The bitters have antiseptic effect on these organs.
- The root of the dandelion is considered to be one of the most potent liver tonics. It enhances the flow of bile, helping to release built-up liver congestion.
- The French name for dandelion is piss-en-lit. This literally means wet the bed, speaking to the diuretic and laxative properties of the bitter green.
- Dandelion greens are anti-inflammatory. They help to reduce swelling and get to the root of many chronic diseases.
- The weed also has potent anti-viral potential and can be used successfully in the treatment of AIDS and herpes.
- The root of the dandelion green contains very high concentrations of inulin. Inulin is an indigestible carbohydrate and a prebiotic substance (boosting any good bacteria activity in your body) that also helps to lower blood sugar levels, especially in diabetics.
Uses for Dandelion
Always be sure that if you’re picking your own dandelions that they haven’t been sprayed. Wash well.
- The young greens can be eaten raw, in a salad, alone or mixed with other spring greens. The older greens should be parboiled to cut the bitter flavor.
- I’ve successfully used dandelion greens as part of a vegetable stir fry or “fried” rice dish. This is an easy and palatable way to incorporate bite-size pieces of the beneficial green into the whole family’s diet.
- Dandelion greens saute beautifully with sliced onions and garlic. Some folks like to add bacon, sausage or egg.
- Both the dried root and the leaf of the greens are used for making a curative tea.
- The yellow florets off of just opened flowers have a honey-like flavor. They can be eaten atop salads, pasta or rice dishes.
- The mature dandelions, that have gone to puff, should always be used for making wishes.
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