Healing with Food, Food as Medicine

Dandelion greens have superior nutritional and medicinal properties. Here’show to buy, or forage, them, and how to use them.

Dandelion greens are one of season’s earliest foodstuffs and oneof the finest of spring tonics. Indeed, they are the most nutritious leafy vegetableyou can buy (see accompanying chart). The greens have a slightly bitter note, they are elegant in a salad and they make a tasty potherb. I also put them in stir fries and soup.

Dandelions support digestion, reduce swelling and inflammation, and treat viruses, jaundice, edema, gout, eczema and acne. This sunflower relative boasts potent medicinal properties with laxative and diuretic properties (its French name, pissenlit, wet the bed, aptly names its effectiveness).

Of course, foraging dandelions enables you to enjoy dandelion crowns. I’ve heard the cooked crowns described as “…homely as a mess of toads on the plate.” But,don’t let that put you off. The crown sits atop the dandelion’s taproot and includes multiple nascent buds and the earliest—and therefore most tender—leaves. Recently I’ve been feasting upon these succulent, buttery soft, bittersweet morsels. Dandelion crowns are a treat that money can’t buy.

To feast upon the crowns—or to forage your own greens—requires getting down on your hands and knees. Ahh, spring aromas wafting up from the warming earth. How I love foraging. In addition to the anticipation of the upcoming feast, there’s the thrill of the find, the pleasure of piling a basket with freely given gifts and a feeling of inter-relatedness that being outdoors engenders. Indeed, foraging is humankind’s oldest profession.

Brush away the protective blanket of last year’s foliage and a scant layer of soil to expose dandelion crowns. Don’t bother gathering from plants that have gone to flower. Here’s why: as the energy moves up to the blossom, the greens becomes quite bitter and require blanching to be toothsome.

The flowers, however, may be used to make wine or Honey-Preserved Blossom Spread (see below). Please note: do not gather dandelions from lawns, public trails, roadsides or any chemically-tainted area.

I marvel at dandelions’ resilience. No matter how many tons of chemicals are dumped onto suburban lawns to kill them, dandelions reign. A meal ticket for herbicide producers. And, would that such producers make more digestible choices.

Back home with the goods, I pick over my haul and discard extraneous leaves and grasses. I’ll sauté the crowns (and/or leaves) with an onion and garlic and season with a pinch of sea salt and few grinds of fresh pepper.

Or, for an excellent salad, I’ll toss dandelion greens, neat, or with other greens. The bittersweet root is typically used as a coffee substitute and in herbal tonics. In ten minutes foraging, I gathered a nice mess of crown jewels—and I left plenty for you.


 1 cup raw

Vit. A
Daily Value

 Vit. K
Daily Value

Daily Value

Daily Value

Dandelion Greens

 2712 IU

 151 mcg

 103 mg

 1.7 mg


 581 IU

 89.4 mcg

 41.4 mg

 0.6 mg

See Rebecca's accompanying recipe for Honey-Preserved Blossom Spread

(Reprinted with the kind permission of Rebecca Wood, from her wonderful website)

Rebecca Wood, who learned gardening and foraging techniques from her grandparents and studied with leading experts in macrobiotics and traditional Oriental medicine, has taught and written about a sustainable diet since 1970.

Her book, The Splendid Grain, won both a James Beard Award and a Julia Child/IACP Award. Her most recent book, The New Whole Foods Encyclopedia, was a One Spirit Book Club (Quality Paperback Book division) main selection. Rebecca has been an educational consultant to numerous organizations in the natural foods industry and currently offers cooking classes for Eden Foods throughout the Western region. She co-founded and directed the East-West Center in Boulder, Colorado, and has established several cooking schools. She currently teaches cooking classes from her home kitchen in Ashland, Oregon. Read at Satya Center, what Rebecca did to cure herself of cancer.

Rebecca offers a variety of services. To schedule an appointment, check out Rebecca's wonderful website for more information, articles, recipes and books. Each month new recipes and articles are posted.






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