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Why The French Love Dandelions (And Why You Should Too)

Rebeca Plantier
Contributing writer By Rebeca Plantier
Contributing writer
Rebeca Plantier is a journalist and author of French School Lunch, a two-year research project on France’s public school lunch program promoting health and wellbeing in children. She writes about about healthy living, travel, parenting and the French lifestyle—and her work has appeared on various sites, such as Huffington Post, Business Insider, Salon, EatLocalGrown, travel site Matador Network and many others.

In France, and Italy too, spring means piling dandelions on your plate. Here’s why.

Forget all those preconceived notions about garden weeds. Come spring, it’s dandelion season in France and Italy – and we’re not just talking about the leaves. We’re talking stem, bloom, roots – the whole thing.

The name “dandelion” comes from the French for “dent de lion,” or the Italian “denti di leone,” both of which mean “the lion’s tooth,” a reference to their jagged edges. Healers have used them for centuries because dandelions are renowned for supporting healthy liver function and are packed with calcium, iron, fiber, vitamins A, C, E and K and powerful antioxidants such as beta-carotene and lutein (great for healthy eyesight!). The dandelion is also a powerful diuretic (in French it’s also known as "pissenlit," an unglamorous but straightforward nod to bedwetting).

Dandelions are at most tender and most delicious in spring. After winter’s last snow melted in our town near the Alps, my father-in-law would start his own annual rite of spring: collecting the best dandelion leaves in the garden for lunchtime salads. The leaves are still quite small in the early days of spring, so it was definitely a labor of love. Rustling up enough for a big salad was a real time commitment!

But you don't have to go to that much trouble. Have a quick look around a Whole Foods Market and you'll find dandelion root tea, dandelion capsules and tablets, in addition to fresh dandelion greens.

Dandelion greens are great in salads or as a salad on their own. Their bitter taste might take some getting used to, but the upside is that they can be prepared in so many ways!

Here are some of our favorites:

  1. Salad: If you find dandelion too bitter for you, mix it up with other fresh greens to level out the flavor.
  2. Soup: Chop up the leaves and add to soups, stews or to your slow cooker recipes.
  3. Grains: Add to a bowl of quinoa or brown rice, along with some walnuts and sliced red onions.
  4. Sautéed: Sauté with garlic and onion and sprinkle with sesame seeds.
  5. Bowl: Make a bowl of fresh dandelion greens, feta cheese, diced red onions, and raisins.
  6. Juice: Add them to your green juice in the morning.
  7. Smoothie: Add them to your favorite smoothie recipes.
  8. Bean Salad: Make a cold bean salad with dandelion greens, white beans, garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper.
  9. Dandelion Tea: Steep the leaves in hot water and enjoy dandelion tea.
  10. Pasta: Add them to your favorite pasta dishes.

When buying dandelion greens, stick to the organic variety when possible, and buy in spring. Wash thoroughly before consuming. Bon appétit!

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