Dandelion Greens (radikia in Greek). Horta is a catch-all term for greens and horta vrasta means simply boiled greens in Greek language. This recipe features dandelion greens which are certainly very popular in Greek cooking as are their other green friends vleeta (amaranth), mustard greens, chicory, etc.
Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) has been valued since ancient times for its great healing properties. It is a symbol of the true perseverance of nature. Although this plant has a high value, it can be quite a troublesome for the gardeners because it grows at places where it shouldn’t. You can find dandelions everywhere, but if you want to eat it try to pick it up from a clean place, not the ones that grows next to the road. The interesting thing about dandelion is that every part of the plant is edible.
Dandelion greens can be eaten cooked or raw and served as an excellent source of vitamins A, C and K. They also contain vitamin E, folate and small amounts of other B vitamins. What’s more, dandelion greens provide a substantial amount of several minerals, including iron, calcium, magnesium and potassium.
Dandelion root has long been held as a “liver tonic” in folk medicine. Dandelion root tea could help detoxify the liver, help with skin and eye problems, and relieve symptoms of liver disease.
If you have digestive problems or you need to get rid of toxins, the dandelion tea may be exactly what your doctor prescribes as a herbal remedy. The liver produces bile in the digestive system and also filters blood from chemicals and other impurities.
Various studies have shown that dandelion tea lowers levels of blood sugar and can in turn treat diabetes. It removes excess sugar that is stored in the body due to its diuretic properties and helps in stimulating the production of insulin from the pancreas.
Dandelion tea also may help reduce inflammation in the body. Research suggests that all parts of the dandelion plant contain many natural anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds. Doctors believe that inflammation plays a role in many types of disease.
To make dandelion greens or roots tea the procedure is very simple. Place about two cups of clean dandelion in a sauce pan. Cover with about four cups of water. Bring water to a boil. Allow the tea to infuse for three hours or overnight. Strain out the dandelion and reserve the liquid for your tea. Dilute the tea with water or add some honey if the flavor is too strong.
To make a delicious and healthy salad, put washed dandelion greens in the cooking pan, cover with water, boil until is soft.
Take it out of the water and add some olive oil, salt, pepper and lemon juice. The salad is great side dish for fish or meat.
You can also mix it with different boiled or steamed root vegetables if you are vegetarian or vegan. A good idea is to mix boiled dandelion greens with boiled rice, add some aromatic herbs, salt and pepper, a bit olive oil and lemon juice. It is very simple but amazing and healthy dish. Dandelion greens taste almost like a spinach, so you can use it instead of spinach in different dishes. You can make a pie or add it in your omelette.
It is also free, you can find it everywhere in the nature almost all year long. You just have to collect it, wash it and boil it yourself.
During the hard time of the WW2 coffee was one of the most cherished items among soldiers. Since coffee was hard to find soldiers used roasted dandelion roots as coffee substitute. The dandelion plant doesn’t contain any naturally occurring caffeine but it tastes similar to coffee. It is actually a great alternative if you enjoy the taste of coffee, but are trying to cut back on your caffeine intake. It is also an ideal coffee substitute for people who like roasted coffee flavor, but are sensitive to caffeine. If you are up to make your own dandelion coffee, then watch this 14 minutes tutorial that I found on YouTube.
Very young dandelion leaves can be used for a fresh salad instead of lettuce, especially in the early spring time, since it is still cold so the lettuce is not yet developed. The lettuce that you can find in the supermarkets all year long is not fresh naturally grown lettuce, but one that grows under the growing lights and greenhouses. Lettuce seeds germinate best at 55 to 65°F (18 Celsius) therefore direct sowing is recommended as soon as the ground is warm.
The yellow dandelion flowers can also be used for tea, but also to make dandelion syrup that tastes and looks like honey. Dandelion honey is great on toasts, muffins, pancakes, and biscuits. You can use it as you would use honey in tea and beverages. It is very easy to make it. First of all, you have to harvest dandelion flowers during the daylight while in full bloom. Soak the flowers in cold water for five minutes to allow time for any insects to exit. Remove the petals, then use the petals only. Discard the center of the flower and the stem. You need about 4 cups of dandelion petals. Place the petals in a heavy saucepan along with the water, lemon slices, and vanilla bean.
Bring it to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer it for 30 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and let it soak for 6 hours. Strain the dandelion tea through a cheesecloth and discard the solids. Place the dandelion tea in a heavy saucepan and bring it to a low boil. Gradually add sugar to the boiling liquid while stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Lower the heat and let it simmer uncovered until it reaches the desired syrupy thickness. This may take up to 4 hours. Store dandelion honey in the refrigerator. It is perfect vegan substitute for honey since is man made and not by the bees.
In general there are so many ideas to use dandelion. I just wrote down a few.
One more tip for the end, don’t throw away the water where you boiled dandelion greens for salad. Let it cool down and you can use it for watering your garden or your pot plants as a natural fertilizer.