When I was a 20, I lived in a small town in northeastern Australia for part of the year. I had moved there from Minnesota to study marine biology, because as it turns out, for me there was something inherently wrong about studying marine biology hundreds of miles away from anything remotely marine. To me, there was no other place to go other than the Great Barrier Reef. I’ve always had a taste for the go-big-or-go-home approach to life.
And I’ve always had a soft spot for science. In Australia, I was introduced to a whole new standard of writing, in communicating real life science to real life scientists. It was more regimented and uniform than ever before, full of microscopic details, and left no room for feeling. No fluffy adjectives allowed. Just real science. It was challenging, but I was good at it. I’ve always been good at the details and somehow, writing like a robot came natural to me.
It was summer and I remember riding my bike to the university. The campus was about an hour ride each way and I’d show up to class completely drenched in sweat, clothes soaked through. Now that I think about it, I was probably (and most undoubtedly) the sweaty girl. But science and sweat aside, one of my most memorable moments was my first time tasting Vegemite. Have you had the pleasure? It’s a thick, nearly black, paste made from leftover brewer’s yeast extract and no words in the English language seem apt to properly describe its taste. It’s pure salty and bitter with the very slightest, nearly undetectable essence of sweet. My first reaction was to spit it out. No thing on this planet could have convinced me to chew, much less swallow, and I don’t think I’ve tried it since, but most Australians love it. They love Vegemite and have a strange aversion to peanut butter of all things.
I’d say I have a healthy relationship with bitter foods. I eat tons of vegetables that many might consider bitter, like broccoli and kale, am in a committed relationship with dark chocolate and green tea, but even with a taste for bitter foods, dandelion greens, like Vegemite, are a bit of a challenge. We westerners generally aren’t a bitter food-eating culture, but in the rest of the world, especially the non-English speaking world, bitter foods are part of the norm. I’ve always found it so interesting how malleable taste buds are, how one culture can love the same food or taste that another culture might loathe.
How Bitters Benefit your Body
Bitter foods are actually quite essential to our health and have played an important role in the places where human evolution, traditional foods and medicines, and our current food system overlap. They have a long history of helping to aid digestion, absorb more nutrients, support our body’s natural detoxification pathways, and even influence our taste for healthier foods. You check out this post on why bitter foods are essential to our health and why our distaste for them might actually be an ancient act of self-preservation.
Food is Medicine
This dandelion greens salad is full of only good things. Some of the nutrition and health benefits of this salad include high antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds, loads of healthy fats, and bitter compounds that aid digestion.
|Dandelion leaves||high in vitamins C, E, and K and minerals calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, iron, and potassium||alterative, bitter tonic, diuretic, nutritive, tonic|
|Spinach||excellent source of vitamin K, vitamin A, vitamin C, & folate; |
good source of manganese, magnesium, iron,
& vitamin B2
|Olive oil||high in oleic acids (a monounsaturated|
fat), good source of vitamin E
|antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, healthy fats|
|Walnuts||high in omega-3 fats; good source of manganese, copper, biotin, calcium, chromium, & iron; vitamin E||antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, healthy fats|
|Red onion & garlic||excellent source of manganese & vitamin B6, good source of vitamin C & calcium||antibacterial, antifungal, carminative, supports immune function, & so much more!|
|Thyme||vitamin A & C, manganese, copper, iron, fiber||carminative, antioxidant, antibacterial, antifungal, diuretic|
|Dill||vitamins A & C, manganese, calcium||antioxidant, antibacterial|
wilted dandelion greens & lemon dill vinaigretteCourse: Salads
This salad comes together so easy, has only a few ingredients, and is so full of all the goodness of nutrient-rich leafy greens. Dandelion greens are known for their high vitamin and mineral content. They’re incredibly antioxidant and we all need more of them in our lives. All the flavors in the vinaigrette help to tone down and complement the bitterness of the dandelion greens.
- lemon-dill vinaigrette
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice, fresh squeezed
1 teaspoon honey
2 thinly sliced rounds of red onion, cut in half
2 cloves garlic, minced
pinch dried thyme (or fresh thyme leaves)
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoons fresh dill, roughly chopped
- dandelion greens salad
3 cups fresh spinach, loosely packed
2 cups fresh dandelion greens, loosely packed & roughly chopped
2 radishes, thinly sliced
1/4 cup toasted walnuts, roughly chopped
- In a large skillet, add all ingredients for the lemon-dill vinaigrette except the fresh dill and heat slowly over medium heat. Stir frequently and cook until onions are slightly translucent (about 2-3 minutes).
- Remove from heat and immediately add in the dill, spinach, and dandelion greens. Use a wooden spoon or tongs to toss the greens with the dressing until slightly wilted. (You don’t want to cook the greens all the way, just let the heat of the dressing wilt them slightly.)
- Divide salad up only plates, top with sliced radishes and toasted walnuts. (You can add more fresh dill on top if you’d like.) Serve immediately & enjoy.