Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The Vitamins in Your Lawn

Wait! Do you KNOW how much nutrition is in that green vegetable you were about to kill? That's right, I'm talking about those weeds with the cheerful yellow flowers that homeowners love to hate - dandelions. According to the USDA Bulletin #8 "Composition of foods", dandelions rank in the top four most nutritious green vegetables. In fact, just one cup of that dandelion has:
  • 147 mg of calcium
  • 244 mg of potassium
  • 203 mg of Vitamin K
  • 19% of daily recommended allowance for iron & 28% of the DRA for Vitamin C
  • Over 10,000 IUs of Vitamin A! (Third richest of all foods after cod liver oil and beef liver!)

(Source: Jonny Bowden's 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth)

Furthermore, dandelions are:

  • Free

  • Easy to grow :)

  • One of the first vegetables to appear in the spring, and again in the fall

So why waste this incredible source of nutrition, shown to be great at detoxifying the liver and increasing bile flow? Why spray nasty herbicides to get rid of a valuable vegetable? Instead, you could (carefully wash the leaves and then) throw the leaves in your mixed green salad, put it in your minestrone or omelet, and juice it up with some lemon and apples. AND you can treat the root like a carrot - put it in stir fries, soups, or sautee it up with some garlic and onions.

OK - so I admit there is a reason not to eat it. Some dandelion leaves taste pretty bitter. In fact, to prepare for this post, I sauteed up a batch with olive oil and lemon - and couldn't finish it all. Too bitter! But, then, this morning I juiced a cup of dandelion leaves with a sprig of mint, 1/2 a lemon, and an apple - and yum! The bitterness gave the juice a nice edge. I plan to use the leaves in small portions, as part of bigger meals. It seems they are so incredibly nutritious that even a little bit is beneficial (sort of like parsley).

But wait! Don't kill that purslane either! Also treated as a weed by confused lawn-owners, purslane has the highest omega-3 concentration of any green leafy vegetable. Also 90 mg of calcium, 561 mg of potassium, and 2,000 IUs of vitamin A in a cup. Full disclosure: I haven't tried purslane yet.

Hey, I'm a novice gardener, and I like a plant that grows easy, propogates itself, and has few diseases or pests to bother it. And in case I'm ever down to wheat berries and rice in my food storage, I know where to get my vitamins - from my lawn.


Verde said...

Good for you for trying it out. I guess spring dandelions are tastier.

Purselane grows really well in my garden, I should try it.

One Dog said...

Yes, dandelions are excellent in the Spring. I harvested them several times very early this past Spring, and they were very good -- a delicate flavor, not bitter at all. And all the better because they're one of the very first things that starts to grow!

Hausfrau said...

Guess I need to try again in the spring!

Alison said...

Yes, I'd try them in the spring too. There are other weeds that are good, though I can't think of them all off the top of my head. I've eaten the leaves of violets that grow in woodland, wild onions and garlic are also quite abundant in my area. My favorite I think is the blue flowers of spiderwort.

Usually it helps if you can identify wild flowers down to their family because some families are more edible. Try the book Botany in a Day by Thomas Elpel.

Dandelions bring nutrients up from the deep layers of the soil and will grow if we don't allow the native species that do that job to grow.