Finally, it starts to turn green again, and you can already find the first salad growing outside. At this time of the year, we love to pick the young green dandelion leaves for a fine healthy salad. After our traditional Easter dishes with a lot of meat, such a salad is a welcome alternative. Beside, leftover Easter eggs go well with the salad. For those of you with botanical knowledge and who are adventurous enough, there are of course many more edible spring plants that you can mix in the salad. We mention here two more, which are easy to find and recognize.
Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) is very easy to recognize even without its typical yellow flower and grows on almost every meadow. Of note, you should be careful not to collect near busy roads or on freshly fertilized meadows. The leaves of the dandelion are oblong and toothed, dark green to slightly brownish and may vary slightly in appearance. They can be confused with two plants also called dandelion: Leontodon and the common piglet herb (hypochoeris uniflora) have in comparison no hollow stems, but are both edible.
Potatoes used in this dish have moderate amounts of spermidine, but since we often eat potatoes (i.e. large amounts), they are nevertheless a good source of spermidine. Whether and how much spermidine is contained in dandelions has never been studied. However, since moderate to good amounts of spermidine have also been measured in other leaf salads and herbs tested so far, we assume also a good portion of spermidine is contained in dandelion salad.
The use of dandelion as a medicinal plant already has a long tradition in folk medicine and homeopathy. It uses roots, leaves and flowers. Several scientific studies have shown some different effects. Of particular note here are the metabolism-promoting, diuretic1, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant2 effects. In addition, a growth-inhibiting and apoptosis-promoting effect on certain cancer cells could be detected 3.
Important ingredients are bitter substances, vitamins (especially A, E, C), minerals (iron, calcium, magnesium, potassium), triterpenoids and inulin.
Recipe for 2 persons (as a side dish for 4 persons):
Start with boiling the potatoes. In the meantime, you can prepare the dandelion leaves. For our salad, we use the dandelion leaves, the flower buds and a bit of the roots. If you find dandelion try to sting with a knife the entire leaf rosette with a part of the root. Smaller, strongly jagged, frizzy leaves, which look very dark green to brownish, taste the best. Then comes the most work of this dish: washing the leaves. The easiest way to do this is, if you leave a bit of the root, which keeps the leaf rosette together. The root you simply scrap a bit. You can leave the leaves in one part, but we prefer them cut in ~2 cm pieces. If you have found other wild herbs, add them to the salad.
Peel the boiled potatoes and cut them into thin slices. For the marinade, we use fine chopped garlic; 1-2 finely sliced dandelion roots, apple cider vinegar, some balsamic vinegar, oil, and salt. Mix the marinade with the potatoes and let it rest for a while. Before serving taste it again and add some more vinegar and salt as the potatoes quickly absorb these flavours. Stir in the cut leaves and buds. Place the salad on a dish with a sliced egg and decorate it with daisies. You can serve fresh bread to this salad.
Variants: You can garnish the salad with pumpkin seed oil and spermidine-rich pumpkin seeds or it tastes delicious too with thin spermidine-rich parmesan slices on top. Our aunt Traudi, for example, loves the salad with small roasted bacon strips.
Daisies (Bellis perennis): The flowers are not only a pretty decoration, but are healthy too due to their metabolism-stimulating and expectorant effects.
Chickweed (Stellaria media) grows carpet-like on fallow ground, also in the vegetable garden, and is usually seen as a nuisance weed. The leaves are small, oval and pointed, and the flowers like small, white stars. Used are leaves with stems and flowers. Their taste is reminiscent of young, raw corn. Chickweed is very rich in vitamins and minerals. It has a metabolism-stimulating, expectorant and invigorating effect.
On the left: dandelion. In the middle: daisy. On the right: chickweed
1 Clare et al. The diuretic effect in human subjects of an extract of Taraxacum officinale folium over a single day. J Altern Complement Med. 2009.
2 González-Castejón et al. Diverse biological activities of dandelion. Nutr Rev. 2012
3 S. C. Sigstedt et al.: Evaluation of aqueous extracts of Taraxacum officinale on growth and invasion of breast and prostate cancer cells. In: International Journal of Oncology.
200 g dandelion (two big hands full)
500 g potatoes (best-firming)
1 large garlic clove
vinegar (apple cider vinegar and balsamic to taste)
Optional: 10 daisies to decorate, some chickweed, pumpkin seed oil, pumpkin seeds, Parmesan or crispy fried fine strips of bacon