Photo courtesy of Katy Wilkens
Dandelion vanilla jelly

You Are What You Eat: Get even with dandelions!

By Katy Wilkens, MS, RD

You can tell spring is here because weeds are growing. But don’t despair, much of that green garden growth that we call weeds is actually edible. Native people in our area waited with impatience for the bright color of spring greens, knowing they were full of healthy nutrients.

Dandelions are an especially great source of vitamin C, potassium, antioxidants and other nutrients, good for your heart and kidneys. And picking dandelions will be great payback for the way they threaten to take over your garden. Verify that any dandelion flowers, greens or roots you pick have not been treated with chemicals.

Cream of dandelion soup

3 cups of chopped dandelion leaves
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup chopped onions or leeks
3 garlic cloves, minced
3-4 cups homemade chicken broth, or low-sodium broth
1 cup half-and-half
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley or tarragon
½ cup dandelion flower petals (remove green ends)
Croutons (optional)

Boil dandelion leaves gently in water and pour out the bitter water, repeat. Sauté onion or leeks and garlic in olive oil until tender. Add broth, simmer for 5-10 minutes. Add half-and-half and parsley or tarragon, simmer again for a few more minutes. Garnish with the flower petals and croutons.

Nutritional information (per serving):
Calories: 159, Carbohydrates: 12 grams, Protein: 5 grams, Sodium: 113 milligrams

Dandelion vanilla jelly

2 cups dandelion flower petals
1 quart water
1 package (1.75 ounces) powdered fruit pectin
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons orange or lemon extract
1 vanilla bean, scrape out all the tiny seeds
4 to 6 drops yellow or green food coloring (optional)

In large saucepan, bring dandelion blossoms and water to a boil for about 4 minutes. Strain through fine sieve or cheesecloth. You need about 3 cups liquid. Discard blossoms. In heavy-bottomed pot, combine dandelion liquid and pectin. Bring to a full rolling boil, stirring constantly. Add sugar, return to a rolling boil. Boil for a minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat, add extract, vanilla bean seeds and food coloring if desired. Skim off foam. Ladle hot mixture into hot sterilized half-pint jars, filling to a quarter-inch from the top. Remove air bubbles, wipe rims and adjust lids. Immerse jars in boiling hot water bath for 15 minutes. Makes about six half-pints. I call this sunshine in a jar!

Nutritional information (per serving):
Calories: 14, Carbohydrates: 3 grams, Protein: 0 grams, Sodium: 1 milligram

Roasted dandelion root coffee ice cream

Roasted dandelion root is an old-time coffee substitute. Use it to make a wonderful mocha-flavored ice cream. You can buy dandelion roots at some grocery stores but it is much more satisfying to pull them out of the ground and roast them to death!

1-2 cups roasted dandelion root, chopped or grated
2 ½ cups heavy cream
1 ½ cups half-and-half
1 ½ cups sugar
5-6 beaten egg yolks

If roasting your own dandelion root, cut in chunks and roast in 400-degree-Fahrenheit oven until tender, then chop or grate. In a double boiler add cream, half-and-half and sugar. Simmer and stir to dissolve sugar. Add dandelion root and continue simmering for about 45 minutes. Do not boil. Strain and discard roots. Return dandelion cream to double boiler. Beat egg yolks in bowl and add in a slow stream, stirring dandelion cream with whisk until it gets to a sauce-like thickness. Let it chill in the refrigerator. Put in ice cream maker, freeze following manufacturer’s directions.

Nutritional information (per serving):
Calories: 476, Carbohydrates: 49 grams, Protein: 7 grams, Sodium: 68 milligrams

The information in this column is meant for people who want to keep their kidneys healthy and blood pressure down by following a low-sodium diet. In most cases, except for dialysis patients, a diet high in potassium is thought to help lower high blood pressure. These recipes are not intended for people on dialysis without the supervision of a registered dietitian.

[Katy G. Wilkens is a registered dietitian and department head at Northwest Kidney Centers. The 2013 recipient of National Kidney Foundation Council on Renal Nutrition’s Susan Knapp Excellence in Education Award, she has a Master of Science degree in nutritional sciences from the University of Washington. See more of her recipes at www.nwkidney.org.]

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