Play with the Bitter Principle this Spring!
Call me optimistic but I am choosing to believe that spring is here. Although I had a wonderful winter, as they go, I am fully ready to embrace a new season. And with a new season, comes a classic spring culinary friend – dandelion greens! If you’ve ever tried them, you know that they are quite bitter and if you happen to know me, you know that I LOVE bitter foods and herbs.
Aside from the bitter receptors that reside on our tongue, we have bitter receptors all through our bodies including the gonads and the heart. This should raise a curiosity: Why would this be? We evolved from eating bitter foods such as berries and roots. Bitter foods are very much a part of our ancestral diet. However, as the food industry evolved, they favoured flavours that were addictive like sweet and salty leaving our bitter taste receptors untouched.
Whether or not we flock to bitter foods, there is a series of physiological changes that happen when we engage with bitters. In botanical medicine, we call this the bitter principle. When we taste bitterness, it automatically shifts us into parasympathetic or rest and digest mode; saliva increases, enzymes increase and peristalsis begins. What this ultimately means is less gas and bloating and better bowel movements. Oh, and of course a more relaxed nervous system.
Dandelion is one of the first “weeds” that peaks through the earth in spring. The greens also happen to be a wonderful choice for a bitter food. Below are three of my favourite ways to eat dandelion greens.
- Dandelion Greens Pesto
2 cups dandelion greens, packed, chopped, and washed
½ cup olive oil
1-2 cloves garlic
1-2 tablespoons pumpkin seeds, pine nuts, or walnuts
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast, parmesan or pecorino (my favourite!)
A squeeze of lemon juice or 1 teaspoon of balsamic vinegar
Add into a small blender in this order:
Nuts or seeds
Half of the oil
Lemon or balsamic
The remainder of the oil; if you have the option to drizzle in slowly as the blender runs – please do!
Add in cheese and give one final blitz.
Enjoy this pesto on crackers, drizzled on meat, tofu, fish, with pasta or drizzled over a yummy soup!
- Sauteed in a salad and sprinkled with sheep or goat cheese like this awesome recipe here
- Dandelion Juice
To mellow out the bitter (if you must!) of dandelion greens, you can always juice them with citrus and apples. I prefer that folks add in some ground flax seed to their fresh pressed juice to stabilize blood sugar!
I typically do some variation of the following:
1 large bundle of organic dandelion leaves
Small chunk of ginger
And sometimes I add a little pineapple for some more flavour
Please do enjoy playing with all of the above. I promise that if you welcome bitter herbs and foods into your life, you’ll grow to love them! Another promising tidbit for you is that your bitter receptors will change over time. What this means is this: The first time you have something bitter, you will have a wicked response (make a funny face, announce how much you disliked it, etc) but over a few weeks, you’ll notice that even though it is still bitter…you can handle it much better. The body adapts beautifully to old friends like the bitters.
P.S. – Do not harvest your own dandelion greens unless you know for sure that they were not sprayed!
P.P.S – If you’re looking for some tips on how to support the body this season, check out this freebie on my website.
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