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25 Jun 2010

Dandelions

It is sad that so many modern gardeners view the dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) as a lowly weed rather than a wild flower or herb. The plant has been known as restorative and rejuvenating by herbalists, both in the East and West, for over a thousand years. Dandelions are part of the Aster family.

The dandelion is made up of a juicy root, stem, flowers and leaves, all edible. The leaves are very high in carotenes, phosphorus, vitamin A and C, iron, magnesium, potassium, the antioxidant glutathione, and calcium. The root contains choline and the flowers contain lecithin amongst many vitamins and minerals.

Dandelion leaves are a diuretic and a natural detoxifying herb, helping in flushing out excess water and waste products from the body. The sterols in the leaves have an anti-inflammatory effect.  The leaf tea is a mild laxative, said to lower cholesterol and when cold is soothing on sunburn.

The choline in the dandelion root makes it a mild stimulant for the gallbladder and liver, aiding in clearing them of waste products and increasing bile flow. Herbalists used it as a cure for hepatitis and jaundice in days gone by. The root is also taken to aid in dissolving kidney and gall stones and is excellent for all problem skin conditions. Dried dandelion roots make an excellent coffee substitute. 

An oil made from dandelion flowers is available as well and can be applied externally to relieve arthritis and other aches and pains.

Warning: The fresh latex (milk) in the stalk can cause dermatitis.  On the up side the latex is said to dry out warts.

If picking fresh dandelions or buying from a farm stall make sure that they are free from pesticides. Young, fresh leaves are great in salads or added to soups and stews. Dandelion root, flowers and leaves can also be found dried as teas, a pill or capsule, or the juice preserved as an essence. The dried herb will keep for up to a year in an airtight tin kept in a cool dark area.

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Dandelion Coffee

Collect a good supply of roots, clean them well and dry them for about two days over a radiator. Cut the dried roots into 1cm / 1/2" long lengths and roast them evenly; as with coffee you get a stronger flavour by roasting them a darker colour. Grind in an ordinary grinder and make up in a jug the way you would instant coffee. Strain as you pour into cups. The flavour is nutty and rather bitter.


Detoxifying Dandelion and Bitter Greens Salad with Tarragon-Lemon Vinaigrette  From the Vegetarian Times 
Loaded with naturally detoxifying dandelion and other bitter greens, this salad will last you through the weekend. Mix in extras, such as artichoke hearts, steamed asparagus, cubed jicama or avocado, pomegranate seeds, grated celery root, basil leaves, tomatoes, and/or raw garden peas, for each serving.

Salad
2 cups dandelion greens, thick stems trimmed
2 cups chicory leaves, outer ribs discarded, leaves torn into 2-inch pieces
2 cups baby arugula
1 med endive, sliced into 1/2-inch-thick rings (1 cup)
1 med carrot, grated (1/2 cup)
1 small fennel bulb, thinly sliced (1/2 cup)
1/4 cup thinly sliced celery
1/4 cup chopped parsley

Tarragon-Lemon Vinaigrette
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup lemon juice
2 tbsps chopped fresh tarragon
2 cloves garlic, minced (2 tsp.)
dash cayenne pepper

To make Salad: Combine dandelion greens, chicory, arugula, endive, carrot, fennel, celery, and parsley in large bowl. To make Tarragon-Lemon Vinaigrette: Shake together all ingredients in small jar with tight-fitting lid.
Toss 1 serving of greens with just enough dressing to lightly coat leaves. Top with optional additions, if desired. Serve immediately. Makes 4 servings


Dandelion Skin Tonic

Dandelion skin tonic acts as a general daily pick-you-up for normal skins and can be used to sweep away the last traces of cleanser.

handful of dandelion leaves
2 heaped tbsps fresh thyme leaves (and flowers, if you like) or 1 tablespoon dried leaves
300ml boiling filtered, mineral or rainwater
1 tbsp witch hazel
2 drops grapefruit seed extract

Infuse the dandelion flowers and thyme in the boiling water just as if you were making a tea: leave to cool for 20 minutes. Strain through a sieve and add the witch hazel. lastly, add the drops of grapefruit seed extract and shake well. Source: The ultimate natural beauty book by Josephine Fairley

7 comments:

Anji said...

In France they're called 'Pis en lit' - wet the bed - can't think why ;)

Marion said...

I should send you a photo of my field in the spring. From my deck, it looked like a carpet of gold, and I wondered then why the dandelion is so derided by many of us. I drink dandelion tea often, and other teas which have dandelion in them. It is the first flower to bloom in the Cariboo and I love it...it is a sure sign of Spring.

And for those of us who need it, it's a great, gentle diuretic. Thanks for this post, Jackie!

Jason said...

Don't know that I'll ever be able to force myself to try any dandelion-based food, but it is interesting.

Jan said...

Thanks, Jackie. This is the second weed in my yard you have given some appeal.

I wonder if I start harvesting them, they will stop growing so abundantly knowing now that I want them. :)

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Kath Lockett said...

I had no idea you could eat dandelions.... I've loved them (as a flower to look at) since I was a child but never been brave enough to try it as a tea. You've inspired me now though.

Doug Stephens said...

I have always loved dandelions. Sturdy, versatile, and almost impossible to kill. And a field full of them is actually very beautiful.