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D is for Dandelion Greens

Vegetables from A to Z

By Hannah Marcotti


There will always be times of unbalance in our lives. Some of us seem to invite a bit more chaos and disorder than others, especially when things are going well. Perhaps the calm and order is frightening, or we haven’t learned to embrace the stillness in the same way we thrive on the frantic. Accomplishing goals can be exhilarating and scary. We have more systems set in place for the chaos than the success. My systems include excess chocolate, skipping the gym, and a good dose of self-pity. Yours might be pizza, late nights, and too much TV.

It may seem silly, but I’ve become quite good at planning for the times of unbalance. (My grocery list starts with dark chocolate.) As a result, I have managed to shorten those stretches from weeks or even months of unbalance into just days. I now recognize the pattern I’m slipping into and quickly bring myself back into balance by returning to the basics. Having systems set up for making the positive work is key.

When it comes to the kitchen, dandelion greens are a lovely lesson in balance. The leaves are quite bitter so pairing them with citrus and a sweet tangy dressing creates a salad bursting with flavors. Dandelion is full of A, C, and D vitamins and rich in potassium, zinc, and iron. Perhaps you have heard dandelion mentioned as an aide in digestion or as a diuretic or you’ve seen dandelion tea at the grocery store. Search for it online and you will be amazed at the list of benefits.

What I most love about this tasty vegetable is the association it has for children with those sweet little yellow bouquets they pick every spring. Mention making a wish on a “puff” in our house and excitement starts brewing. Kids have a seasonal connection with dandelions, and they will recognize the leaves as you prepare the salad. Describe how in some countries cooks batter the yellow dandelion flowers and fry them as a little pancake! I no longer see dandelions as a weed when I pass them sprouting in a lawn; I see lunch!

If you are seeking out your own systems for balance, try getting in the kitchen and preparing food with your kids. It slows us down, lets us appreciate our food, and gives our children the chance to make food part of their life, not just their stomachs. Please remember, it is not necessary for your children to eat and like these bitter leaves; most likely they won’t. Just having them be part of the process hands them the tools to be open to food in every form as their taste buds develop with age.

Dandelion Citrus Salad

1 bunch dandelion leaves, washed, roughly chopped
2 romaine lettuce hearts, washed, roughly chopped
½ English cucumber, sliced in half moons
1 grapefruit, segmented (Watch video)
1 orange, segmented
1 cup alfalfa sprouts
¼ sliced almonds

Assemble ingredients in large bowl and dress with Tangy Mustard Dressing (recipe follows).

Tangy Mustard Dressing

½ cup orange juice
1 tablespoon yellow mustard
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
½ cup olive oil

In a mixing bowl, combine juice, mustard, and vinegar. Whisk quickly while slowly adding olive oil. Continue whisking until emulsified. Add salt and pepper to taste.

This is a big salad that’s great for a potluck or dinner with friends. Or you can eat it for lunch many days in a row by leaving the dressing on the side and adding it when it’s time to serve.

Hannah Marcotti is a holistic health counselor who loves creating exciting recipes and inspiring others to get into their kitchens and cook with whole foods. Through her counseling business, Hannah’s Harvest, she hopes to create a ripple effect of health and happiness in Providence and beyond. She shares her musings on life with three children and searching for that next perfect meal on her blog, Hannah’s Harvest Thoughts.

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  • In providence we don’t eat anything that comes from dirt that has been here for a while, lots of lead! Erin, I have come to see the clutter building as the best sign of my needing to get it together. It says “take a moment, slow down, don’t procrastinate” better than anything else!

  • hannah! thank you!

    i have been in an extended period of “unbalance” — the shift of seasons, the end of school, transitioning to more time together at home, too many weekend events, the clutter building — and your piece resonates so strongly with me.

    i have been wanting to explore dandelion greens and flowers for quite a while — thanks so much for the recipes an inspiration!!!

  • Perhaps I am reading your mind! I believe you are supposed to harvest the leaves early, before the flower? You can also steam them as you would spinach. I haven’t tried purslane yet, although for some reason my mouth waters at just the thought of it.

  • have you been reading my mind?! yesterday i was harvesting some dandelion greens from my yard (i have plenty–come help yourself) and wondering if the flavor changes after the flower goes to seed–the mature leaves i’ve picked are too bitter for my kids and even my husband–but i imagine the younger leaves have a more delicate taste? anyway–i’m sure with your tangy-sweet dressing they will be delectable for all.

    jan dane wrote a great piece for edible rhody about foraging in RI.

    i also love to eat purslane–and have tons of it–i think it may have similar properties to the dandelion greens? and it more mild tasting.