When I think of dandelions and spring, I think of Mr. Leventhal, the owner of the only natural food market in my Connecticut hometown, Wilton Organic Gourmet. His store is a gem, small but full, with towering shelves of herbs, bulk grains, fresh, organic produce and a juice bar. As usual when he rang me up at the counter, I would ask about his son Nick, who was in my grade at school. He would always have a story ready about his extreme climbing adventures around the globe. But on one occasion, the bag of detox tea I placed on the counter sparked a memory from the past.
“Ah, red clover” he mused. “I remember sending Nick and his brother to collect red clover from our neighbors’ backyards. One of the neighbors was furious that I would have my boys eat off the lawn. You know,” he sighed, “people have forgotten that nature is our greatest teacher. Red clover is everywhere, growing like weeds! It’s such an amazing flower for cleansing our system!”
His eyes lit up. “You know Eeee… or Di…?” He always forgot which twin I was.
“Emma,” I smiled back, encouraging him to go on.
He muffled. “Yes of course, Emma. Right now if you forage around anyone’s lawn you can find red clover blossoms. They have a hint of purple and pink. Collect as many as you can in a paper bag, and then store the bag in a cool, dark place so they can dry out. When they’re dry, you can make tea. Pour water over a few blossoms and let it steep for about ten minutes.”
And that was how I began to forage for food and herbs right under my nose. Dandelion greens are another common weed that we often find sprouting through the cracks of sidewalks or stubbornly rooted in the middle of our vegetable patch. As Dr. John Douillard points out, they are among the first roots to push through the springtime soil, the greens packed with immune-boosting properties and built to scrub our intestinal track from built up mucus and toxins. Spring is the perfect transitional time to eat dandelion greens.
Dandelion greens can verge on bitter, and fare better in taste and nutrition when they are cooked or lightly wilted. This recipe offers a few sweet, healthy elements for balance: raisins, apples and honey. You can play with this age-old ingredient, sautéing the greens the way you might cook kale, or adding shredded dandelion to a salad.
At this time of year, you can often find dandelion greens at the supermarket. If you are feeling adventurous and want to forage for dandelion greens, don’t forget to mind the Foraging Guidelines!
Dandelion, Apple and Toasted Fennel Seed Salad
Tip: Try making homemade ghee. You’ll quickly fall in love! If you’re pinched for time, buy it online or at your local health food store.
- Dandelion greens – 2 cups, coarsely cut into ribbons
- Apple – 1, cubed
- Ghee – 1 tablespoon (substitute with butter)
- Fennel seeds – 1 tablespoon
- Raisins – 1/4 cup
- Apple cider vinegar – 1 tablespoon
- Raw honey – 1 tablespoon
- Lemon juice – 1 teaspoon, freshly squeezed
- Salt – 1/2 teaspoon
- Toss the dandelion greens and apples together in a bowl. Set aside.
- In a small saucepan, over low heat melt the ghee with the fennel seeds and toast until the seeds brown.
- Add the raisins, apple cider vinegar, honey and simmer on low until the liquid reduces by half, for about 5 minutes.
- Drizzle the warm raisins and fennel seeds over the dandelion greens and apples, mixing together until the edges of the dandelion greens wilt.
- Toss with the lemon juice and salt, and serve.