The Queen of Bitter: Dandelions

IMG_0561Few people personify the concept of living with the seasons more than my mother. In touch with the world around them, my parents harvest the fruits and vegetables that their many plants and trees provide throughout the year. Whether early radishes, winter salads, watercress or dandelions, we always knew when spring had sprung from what was served at the table. Back by popular demand, please give a round of applause to dandelions, the queen of bitter. Come and cook with us!

With spring literally around the corner back home, my parents harvested fresh dandelions that just started to sprout after the snow had melted. Given the altitude, the plants grow dense and dark, yet tender. Compared to the long leafy dandelion leaves we buy at the store here, these were not as bitter. A welcome fact for those of us who don’t feel naturally attracted to bitter things in life.

What makes dandelions so great is that they do wonders to our liver, the organ that is responsible for detoxifying every chemical, pollutant and medicine that we are exposed to. Dandelions contain taraxacin, a chemical component that stimulates digestion and helps entice the liver and gallbladder to release bile, which makes everything run more smoothly. Furthermore, dandelions are very nutrient-rich. They are high in calcium, potassium, bone-building vitamin K and also fiber, as well as vitamin A and lutein and zeaxanthin, both good for our eyes.

The easiest way to prepare dandelions is in a salad, whether on their own or with other leafy greens. They can also be cooked and used in stir-fries, soups or sautéed with onions and garlic and turned into a tasty side-dish. Your choice on eating them raw or cooked primarily depends on their size – mature plants are more bitter – and your appetite for bitter flavors.

The most traditional way to prepare dandelions – called Löwenzahn, or tooth of the lion – is by accompanying them with warm potatoes, eggs and a dijon-based vinaigrette. But don’t let this recipe limit your inspiration as long as you’ll have some bitters for us this week! Come and cook with us!

Dandelion Salad
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