Dandelion Greens: The Weeds You Can Eat

bhofack2/ iStock / Getty Images Plus
bhofack2/ iStock / Getty Images Plus

While kale’s reputation for health keeps growing, it’s time for the dandelion green to share the spotlight! This lesser-known leafy green packs a similar nutritional value.

The early spring months of March and April are peak season for dandelion greens, so don’t be surprised if they start appearing at farmers markets and CSA boxes soon.

Many are afraid to purchase dandelion greens because they look foreign and are known for their bitter flavor. Well, they technically are a weed—what else would you expect? This just happens to be a weed that is more edible—and delicious when correctly prepared—than others. And who says we can not eat weeds? We eat grasses (wheat) and other leaves (spinach) all the time!

How Do Dandelion’s Nutrients Stack Up?

Here is how one cup of raw dandelion greens, kale and romaine stack up in daily percentage of key vitamins and minerals.

Dandelion Greens (%DV)
Vitamin A: 112%
Vitamin C: 32%
Calcium: 10%
Iron: 9%
Vitamin E: 9%.

Vitamin A: 206%
Vitamin C: 134%
Manganese: 26%
Copper: 10% copper
Calcium: 9%

Vitamin A: 82%
Vitamin C: 19%
Folate: 16%
Iron: 3%
Calcium: 2%

Conclusion: On nutrition scales, kale still proves to be the top leafy green. But, by comparison, the dandelion green earns a place as a nutritious diet choice.

More Phytochemical Benefits

We can’t just look at the vitamin and mineral content. Think about all of the active phytochemicals within the plant! Dandelion greens contain carotenoids, choline, taraxasterol (which may help liver/gall bladder health) and terpenoids (which have strong antibacterial properties). Many say the dandelion will help increase bile flow and prevent chronic disease.

Dandelion leaves and roots have been used for years as a natural detoxifier and diuretic* that acts much more gently on the body than manufactured medicines. Dandelion also contains inulin which can help slow insulin response, so diabetics may find a dandelion salad a good accompaniment to meals. But before changing or supplementing your diet plan, speak with a doctor or registered dietitian.

6 Ways to Eat a Dandelion

  1. Boiling reduces bitterness, but will also leach some of the vitamins and minerals. Try simmering in a small amount of liquid instead.
  2. Try blending it in a smoothie just like you would with spinach.
  3. Have a dandelion salad. If it is still too bitter for you, mix in the dandelion greens with other milder greens.
  4. Saute with garlic and olive oil.
  5. Roast with beans or stir cooked greens in with quinoa for a more complete meal.
  6. Add more nutrition by cooking dandelion in soups and stews.
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Nicole German Morgan
Nicole German Morgan, RD, LD is an Atlanta-based registered dietitian and blogger behind Nicole’s Nutrition. Connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram.