Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Taraxacum officinale

Has this ever happened to you?  You're in the grocery store or farmer's market, and you spot something.  "Hmm..", you think to yourself, "I've never had that before, I wonder what I could make with it!" This time, that something was dandelion greens.  As a biologist, I knew that the latin name for dandelion is Taraxacum officinale, and any plant with the species name officinale, officinalis, or officinarum indicates that it is a medicinal plant.  I figured that there must be something special about dandelion greens to have afforded it such a long-standing medicinal status.  Although often viewed as a pesky weed, it is undeniably a tenacious survivor, a quality that is indeed admirable.

After returning home with my greenery, a quick internet search revealed that dandelions are an incredible herb.  Traditionally they are used as a diuretic, improve kidney and liver function, aid digestion, stimulate appetite, act as a mild laxative, and the list goes on.  Recent research indicates dandelion can be used for weight loss, normalizing blood sugar, lowering cholesterol, and as a disinfectant. [1, 2, 3].  Nutritionally, they are an excellent source of calcium, iron, potassium, manganese, vitamins A, B3, B6, C, E, K, thiamine, riboflavin, and folate [4, 5].  That only scratches the surface.  Take home message: eat more dandelions!

Problem being, dandelion greens are really quite bitter.  Young greens aren't so bad, and are often found in "spring mix" salad greens.  The greens I bought were older, and when I sauteed them up with some garlic salt &  pepper like I would normally do with spinach, kale, or collards, they were much more bitter than I would like.  I figured to make them more palatable, they would need to be paired with something sweet.  Tonight's dinner was an overwhelming success!

Sweet Potato and Dandelion Saute
1 sweet potato
1 tsp rosemary
1 cup dandelion greens
1 cup other greens (I used beet greens)
1/4 cup diced red onion
1-2 cloves minced garlic

Roast the sweet potato with the rosemary in the oven until soft.
Saute onion for a few minutes in a bit of olive oil.  Add garlic, saute for 30 seconds.  Add greens and cooked sweet potatoes, toss until greens have wilted.  Salt and pepper to taste and enjoy!

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