Dandelion Squash Stew

Apr 27 / Irena Stathis
The days are getting longer and the plants are emerging from their winter slumber. Spring is here and everything is starting to blossom and grow as the light begins to awaken the land. For me, Spring is a time of year for rejuvenation, when things begin to open up again. I find myself wanting to be out in the world more, with new projects, ideas, and classes. Very often, before I can really get started on a new project, I like to clean the house to have a fresh place where I can 'bloom'.

According to traditional systems of healing, this is a time of year to cleanse the body as well, support detoxification, and invigorate metabolism. We have probably all heard of a 'Spring Cleanse' and as it turns out it's not just a weight-loss fad, but actually stems from ancient traditions of being in tune with the seasons. Even the idea of 'spring cleaning' could be a kind of metaphor for internal cleansing.

An important aspect of cleansing internally is giving the digestive system a break by eating simple healing and nourishing foods, and also by eating the fresh green herbs of springtime. One of my favorite herbal allies for spring cleanses is Dandelion. Every part of this common plant is medicinal, from her diuretic leaves and bitter roots to her bright yellow flowers and milky sap. What an amazing healer indeed!

Not everyone is a fan of Dandelions, many people consider them unwanted weeds that take up residence on their lawns. If only they knew what a powerhouse of nutrition they had growing. Instead of viewing Dandelions as something to be gotten rid of, what if we recognized them as a nutrient-dense food, high in essential vitamins and minerals, a nourisher and healer for the liver, the breasts, and the lymphatic system. These wild weeds can help strengthen our digestion, cool down the heat in the body, clear hormonal acne, and even relieve the irritability of PMS. And if that wasn't enough to sway your heart, she is such a lovely spring flower, she feeds the bees and brings joy to children who make wishes on her wind-dispersed seeds.

It is my belief that when a plant shows up in your garden, so to say, 'uninvited' it is because you (or someone who lives there) may be in need of the medicine it has. Since Dandelion is very often found in large numbers where humans are living, perhaps we are all in need of a little liver support.

I love to eat Dandelion greens, chopped up fresh and added to salads, infused into olive oil or vinegar for a quick dressing, and especially stewed with sweet and earthy roasted vegetables or in this case winter squash. It's a great way to use the pumpkins and squash left from the fall harvests to make a nourishing stew. The sweetness of the squash balances the bitterness of the Dandelion greens and you end up with such a healing, simple and delicious meal.

Dandelion Squash Stew

  • ½ of 1 medium-sized Kabocha Squash
  • ½ of 1 small Butternut Squash
  • 1 large bunch of Dandelion greens (about 30 leaves)
  • 3 Carrots
  • 2 Celery Stalks
  • 2 small yellow onions (or 1 large), roughly chopped
  • 2 large cloves of garlic
  • A few teaspoons of herbal-infused vinegar (plain Apple Cider Vinegar works too!)
  • 2 ½ cups of homemade* chicken broth (you can substitute with veggie broth)
  • 2 tablespoons of Ghee or Coconut Oil
  • Rosemary Salt (or just some dried and crushed rosemary leaves and salt)
  • Fennel Seeds - freshly ground (I used a mortar and pestle)

*As with most any soups, the broth you use makes a big difference in the flavor of the soup. I prefer to use a homemade chicken broth that is made with herbs, veggies, mushrooms, and seaweed. Veggie broth works just as well. Store-bought broth is okay too, but I highly recommend making your own, if you can! Homemade broth will always taste better than anything you can buy from the store.

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Prepare the squash: Begin with cutting your squash in half and scooping out the seeds. Cut into quarters (if the pieces are large) and place in a glass baking dish with the inside of the squash facing up (like little cups). Put a small dollop of ghee (or coconut oil) in each squash 'cup' and sprinkle some Coconut sugar, Rosemary salt, and ground Fennel seeds on top, just a few pinches to season the squash. Cover the baking dish with aluminum foil and bake in the oven for about 30 - 45 minutes or until the squash is tender enough to cut with a fork. Remove from oven and allow to cool.
  3. Prepare the veggies:  Peel and chop the onions.  Wash carrots and celery. Cut first lengthwise and finish by chopping into medium-sized half-moons. Remove the skins from the garlic and finely chop, set aside. Wash the Dandelion greens well and roughly chop.
  4. Prepare the soup: Put a large soup pot on the stove over medium-high heat. Add one tablespoon of ghee to the pot and, once it has melted, start to saute the onions, stirring occasionally making sure not to brown them too much. Once they have started to turn translucent (a few minutes), add in the celery and carrots, stir and cover with a lid allowing them to steam saute for several minutes until tender. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. At this point, you may want to turn down the heat to medium, just keep an eye on it so you aren't browning the veggies. Now it's time to add our Dandelion greens! (I used a cultivated variety of Dandelion greens from the farmer's market, but wild ones work just as well, just keep in mind they may be a bit stronger in flavor.) Add them to the pot, stir up and cover with a lid. Sautee a few more minutes until the greens are wilted and tender. Now, let's add the squash! Scoop out the inner flesh making sure to reserve the oil and seasonings to add to the soup pot, and discard the skins. Pour in the broth and stir. Bring up to a boil and then reduce heat to medium-low and cover. Let simmer for about 15 - 20 minutes. Sprinkle in a few teaspoons of vinegar and some salt to taste (this will help with the bitterness of the Dandelion). Stir it up and let it simmer for a few more minutes to let all the flavors blend together.  Taste and adjust seasonings.

And voila!

Serve with warm sourdough bread and butter.

  1. This stew is delicious with sweet Italian chicken sausage (preferably with fennel seeds in it). Just cook up the sausage separately, cut it into bite-size pieces and add it to your bowl. Yum!
  2. You can use any sweet winter squash you like, even sugar pumpkins! My favorite combination is the Kabocha with Butternut squash. The Butternut is nice and juicy and the Kabocha is extra sweet and rich. They really balance each other well and pair nicely with the bitter Dandelion greens.
As always make sure to forage for plants away from roads and pollution as much as possible. Never overharvest any plant, as they are of course not only here for our enjoyment, but also here for the insects, bees, and birds. Have fun out there!
The information provided in this digital content is not medical advice, nor should it be taken or applied as a replacement for medical advice. Matthew Wood, the Matthew Wood Institute of Herbalism, ETS Productions, and their employees, guests, and affiliates assume no liability for the application of the information discussed.