In early May, when everything is crisp, fresh and bursting with colorful blooms, one of my favorite ways to indulge in this sweet and vibrant bounty is with a shared spring bitters salad. This recipe really takes advantage of the local herbs and greenery that's all around you (or at least making an appearance at your local grocery stores) while providing not only a deliciously fresh and crisp salad, but a digestively supportive light meal to boot! Early spring bitters - such as Dandelion Greens in this case - are slightly bitter and jam packed with good minerals and nutrients. We are often not accustomed to eating bitter foods today (alas!), however not long ago, this was the whole reason people would eat a salad before meals! Salads used to be made of wild bitter greens, freshly picked from the garden and lazily tossed in a bowl, topped with some fresh veggies and a bit of vinegar. Bitter foods are magic -and once you've ventured back to your salad roots with this recipe, you'll soon see why.
Just a subtle bitter taste/sensation on your tongue sends a direct message to your stomach and pancreas to start producing digestive enzymes - the essential components of your digestive system to help break down your food from big pieces (macro-nutrients) into little, more digestible pieces (micro-nutrients). This is why we traditionally would eat a small bitter salad before meals, to help stimulate the production of digestive enzymes so that we could more efficiently break down our meals shortly thereafter. Fast forward several decades, and most bitter foods have been removed completely from the American diet (save coffee, beer and chocolate - the essential modern day "bitter" foods). Yet bitters are some of my favorite types of foods to consume in light, fresh salads because they're so springy and easy to find and make the most delicious additions to these early spring salads! Top with a lightly sweetened apple cider vinegar based salad dressing and you've got a super nutrient dense, delicious, seasonally fresh and detoxifying salad - perfect to share on a breezy spring day.
1 cup fresh dandelion leaves (available at your local grocery store, or right from your backyard), coarsely chopped
1/2 head red romain lettuce, coarsely chopped
10 sprigs fresh parsley, coarsely chopped
1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced
Add all greens + parsley to a large bowl and top with thinly sliced fennel pieces and shelled pistachios to taste. Serves 4.
Apple Cider Vinegar Dressing:
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tbsp raw honey (or more to taste)
1/2 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp garlic powder
Mix all ingredients in a small jar and shake well (as often as needed) to mix in the honey. Serve lightly atop your bitters salad for a hint of added sweetness and to stimulate your digestive fire! Keep refrigerated for up to 1 week.