While mainly considered a weed today, dandelion was historically revered as a food with potent health benefits. Their abundant growth and numerous culinary and medicinal uses made them a primary ingredient in everything from stews and salads to pesto, jelly, syrup, and even wine.
The name of dandelion comes from the French phase dent de lion, or lion’s tooth, thanks to the leaves’ serrated edges. The plant was also known as pissenlit, or “pee the bed,” thanks to its use as a diuretic. While the plant is native to Eurasia, its aggressive pollination led to it being introduced via European migration to North America, South America, India, and Australia.
Dandelion is high in vitamins A, C, K and B2, contains more protein and iron than spinach, and includes a sugar compound called taraxacin that stimulates digestion. In traditional Chinese and Native American medicine, dandelion is used to treat stomach and liver conditions, while modern herbalists also use it to heal heartburn, gastrointestinal disorders, inflammation, and diabetes.
Wrap dry dandelion leaves in a lightly dampened paper towel and store in a half-sealed bag in the coldest part of the refrigerator for 3 to 5 days.
The bittersweet flavor of dandelion leaves is an excellent way to cut the richness of heavier foods like bacon, oily fish, hard cheeses, or avocado. Their bitter flavor also adds dimension to mild flavors such as beans and lentils, grains, and pasta. They are a powerful addition to green juices and smoothies—just make sure to include an apple or grapefruit to help cut the bitterness.
Sauté torn dandelion leaves with olive oil and garlic. Transfer to a large bowl, adding lettuce or other greens if desired. Add a scoop of warm white beans, crumbled bacon or pancetta, toasted bread cubes, and a soft poached or fried egg. Toss with more olive oil, salt, and a squeeze of fresh lemon.
Taste dandelion greens before using to assess their bitterness. If you find them too bitter, remove stems and blanch greens in a pot of salted boiling water for 1 to 2 minutes, then plunge greens into an ice bath to avoid overcooking.