Herb Basics: Cleanse with Dandelions

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See if you can guess which springtime herb eighteenth-­century poet James Hurdis described when he penned these lines:

A college youth that flashes for a day
All gold; anon he doffs his gaudy suit,
Touch’d by the magic hand of some grave Bishop,
And all at once, by commutation strange,
Becomes a Reverend Divine.

If you guessed a dandelion, you’re right! As you open up the windows to air out your home after a long winter, you may notice these sunny flower faces popping up in your yard. But don’t despair–and don’t spray just yet. Dandelions are a common ingredient in cleansing diets, and you may want to use them for an internal “spring cleaning.”

These dandy little plants also provide a lion’s share of nutrients: for 100 g (approximately 3 1/2 ounces) of leaves, you get 2.7 g of protein; 3.1 g of iron; 4,662 IU of vitamin A; 35 mg of vitamin C; and 187 mg of calcium, all for only 45 calories. So as long as they haven’t been sprayed with herbicide, pluck a batch and mix them in your salad for a tasty, ­nutritious treat.

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