Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Humble Dandelion

As part of our Thanksgiving Feast, I mentioned that we break out the first bottle of dandelion wine that we made in the spring.  It's been sitting in the coolness of the cellar on a dark shelf working it's wonders and mellowing into a nutty, smooth medicinal tonic that can be used throughout the year.

Caution - any medicinal references mentioned here are strictly for educational purposed based on my research, empirical evidence, experiments and herbal lore and not intended as medical advice of any kind.  Herbs can be helpful allies in maintaining good health but they can be powerful medications that should be treated with respect.  Used improperly, they can cause adverse reactions, interfere with pharmaceuticals, and even cause death.  Hopefully anything you read here will encourage you to do your own research and speak with your health care professional before treating yourself or anyone else. 

Taraxacum officinale - the humble, common weed that most folks despise in their lawn is surprisingly full of healing properties.  The tag - officinale - means that it's used medicinally.  Dandelion is reported to be an effective diuretic, liver and digestive tonic.  The roots are also a mild laxative and an antirheumatic effectively purging excess uric acid from the body. 

This versatile plant's leaves are an olde time cleansing tonic when added to a spring salad or wilted with a little bacon and vinegar dressing.   Higher in beta carotene than carrots, they are more nutritious than any greens you can buy.  Iron and calcium found in dandelion greens is higher than spinach.  Among other things the leaves are a good source of phytochemicals, potassium salts, other minerals, vitamins A, B, C, and D. Bitters in dandelions can increase hydrochloric acid and digestive enzymes making it a good choice for tea with you meal.  Juicing offers a stronger diuretic action.  An infusion of the leaves is a more gentle cleansing remedy for toxic problems like gout.  By stimulating the liver and digestive system, toxins are purged.  The tincture or wine supplies potassium salts to relieve fluid retention and as a daily detox to maintain good health.

During the cold and flu season, 1 tbsp of dandelion wine helps protect against these "bugs" by clearing toxins from the body that may interfere with proper immune system responses.  Rather than acting as a drug that targets a specific symptom, masking the real problem, it benefits the body by encouraging it to do its jobs properly allowing for natural healing to take place.

Herbalists often recommend dandelion roots as a liver stimulant.  It's one of the safest herbal remedies.  It's a gentle cleansing tonic for jaundice and gallstones.  Reducing joint inflammations and other issues by cleansing the blood, the increased support of the liver, kidneys, pancreas, spleen and stomach encourages the body to heal itself.  The roasted root makes a good substitute for coffee.

Even the notorious bitter, milky white sap that acts to protect the plant from insects and animals is healing. It's used to remove warts, calluses, pimples, soothe bee stings and ease blisters.  A fact that may be useful on the trail. 

Wildcrafting dandelions is a rewarding experience.  There are no poisonous look alikes and you don't have to look far to find tons of them.  The greens are best in the spring when they are young and tender before the bitter sap and flowers appear.  When harvesting flowers for wine, be sure to use only the yellow parts of the flower head to avoid the bitter stems.  The roots are edible all year but offer the highest amount of nutrients from fall to early spring. A word of caution - be careful where you harvest lawn greens due to increased use of pesticides and weedkillers.

Here's an article I wrote earlier this year:

It's dandelion season here in Pennsylvania and I'm looking for some new ways to add them to our diet. We've eaten them prepared like endive with hot bacon dressing but I'd like to learn to use them in other ways as well. Tomorrow I'm hoping to gather dandelion flowers for a batch of wine. It's a wonderful tonic to have on hand to chase away the beginnings of a cold or just for a healthy boost, one spoonful at a time.

A cooking site that I belong to mentioned dandelion fritters. My first thought was a batter dipped flower head deep fried and crispy. But what I found was an interesting recipe that included other healthy vegetables as well. Since the recipe was not precise on other ingredients, I used what I had on hand plus a few wildcrafted leeks. (Probably not a good choice for Sunday morning breakfast before church!!) The batter is one egg, one cup of flour and one cup of milk. To this I added the leaves, flowers and roots of about 5 hearty dandelions, 3-4 wild leeks (bulbs and leaves), one shredded white potato, 1/2 shredded sweet potato, one small zucchini and one small yellow squash, both shredded. These were mixed together in a bowl and cooked on a hot griddle like a pancake. Next time, I'll saute the veggies first and then add the batter. They were a little bitter even with S&P to taste but a little salsa took care of that problem. Maybe maple syrup would be good. Yum!

This post is linked to
TUESDAY TWISTER
Pennywise Platter Thursdays
Hearth and Soul

12 comments:

  1. Such healthy goodness growing right there in the front yard. Very interesting post, thanks for sharing.

    -Brenda

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  2. I love dandelion greens and dandelion tea. I won't let my husband eradicate them from our yard. :)

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  3. I cannot wait until the dandelions appear - I have bookmarked this post I so want to try the fritters! Thanks for sharing this with us at the Hearth and Soul Hop!

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  4. Just as soon as something green breaks through all of the darned brown, I am ready to go! I can't wait to make all of the great dandelion dishes - from roasted root coffee to fritters.

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  5. We're hosting a foraging round up called Wild Things, and the featured herb for the month of April is dandelion. We'd love it if you'd submit this recipe. If you'd like to play along, all you have to do is send a link to this page to wildthings.roundup@gmail.com by the end of the month. Thanks!

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  6. I love dandelion salad with warm bacon dressing! Such great memories from my childhood. tfs, Nan

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  7. Wine huh? Hmmmm, and here I am trying to kill the weedy litte things so my lawn will look green instead of yellow. Course with all the rain here, they'll turn into little white puffy seed things before I can get them sprayed. Oh well, I really do like them. If they just wouldn't expand so...Maybe i should learn to use them like you do:)

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  8. This is a great post about the wonderful Dandelions. I've used Dandelion Root tea many times in the past while I awaited testing for my stomach issues. I'm visiting for my first time for Alphabet Thursday. I do hope you'll pop in for a visit!

    Pink Sparkles,
    Stephanie ♥

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  9. Oh the lovely dandelions. Love that my daughter thinks they are flowers.
    http://reesspace.blogspot.com/2011/05/alphabe-thursday-d-daughter-ducks.html

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  10. I always thought that dandelion wine was just a myth!!

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  11. My grandmother always just cooked up a big pot of them with a whole onion thrown in and probably some bacon fat!

    She was always so enthused with they first appeared each spring. We don't have man of them here in Arizona. Just too hot I think.

    Thanks for another interesting link to A-T!

    A+

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