Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Dandelion Sesame Salad: Embrace your liver and kidneys

Dandelion greens are meant to be eaten- plain and simple. However, in case you've never had the pleasure of eating a handful of raw dandelion greens from your garden... they are incredibly bitter. 

Bitter tastes are actually good for you, and you can build a higher tolerance and an enjoyment for bitter tastes just like you can build a tolerance for the initially disgusting taste of wine. Out tongues actually have many more bitter taste receptors than any other kind of receptor (sweet, salty etc), which is why eating bitter things is so intense, especially for children. This probably developed because a lot of poisonous or toxic compounds have bitter flavors, so we needed to distinguish between good bitter (dandelion) and bad bitter (hemlock or indian hellebore). With this higher awareness of bitter flavors, your tongue will most certainly tell you when you are eating something you shouldn't. This is how animals distinguish between good leaves and bad leaves.

Bitter tastes stimulate your liver to produce bile, which aids digestion, and keeps things clean in there. Dandelion is also a genito-urinary tonic, which includes your kidneys. It is a general tonic for anyone wanting to improve their health.

In order to make Dandelion Greens more palatable (which even I advocate for), you can boil them and the save the water for tea (or discard it if you can't stand it). This is a common practice in culture that eat wild plants. It removes toxic alkaloids, and removes bitter flavors, keeping the nutrition of the plant. Some roots processed by indigenous cultures, such as cassava and camas, have been processed this way. For plants with a higher toxicity, the process is repeated several times, and the water is NOT consumed.

Dandelion Sesame Salad

1/2 a bunch of dandelion greens (or several handfuls of wild)
1 pint of water
1 Tablespoon freshly toasted sesame seeds
1 tsp toasted sesame seed oil
1 tsp soy sauce 

Boil water in a pot. Put the whole dandelion greens in the pot and simmer for about 10 minutes. Strain the hot liquid into a glass. The reserved liquid is a great tonic if you can stand bitterness. Drink it all.

With the greens- put a batch of cold water into the pan. Greens should be cool enough for you to squeeze the excess water out of them. Once squeezed, you will have a mass of greens. With a sharp knife and a board, finely chop the greens. Put these in a bowl. Garnish with the oil, seeds and soy sauce.