I have always said that Dandelions should be the state flower of Washington, or at least the flower of Spokane. They are Everywhere! They grow like weeds! I am not sure how lilacs won out, but I guess the appeal of lilacs is that they are cultivated for their beauty and scent, and don’t maliciously take over yards, hill sides and anywhere else it can get its grubby little seeds to.
Well this week I harvested some dandelions from my front yard. Yes harvested, as in I intend to use them instead of just throwing them in the yard waste bin.
Are you crazy? I can hear it now. My husband even told me dandelions are poisonous! Well that’s not really true, but I appreciate the concern darling.
I was first introduced to the uses of dandelion when I had gall bladder problems during and after my pregnancy. Being the concerned mama I am I wanted to avoid surgery or heavy medications like hydrocodone when I was pregnant. I searched and searched for something I could do to ease my gall bladder pain and couldn’t find anything. My most wonderful and awesome massage therapist/birth doula/ friend suggested I try warm water with lemon, that helped but I found dandelion* tea (with lemon) and it eased the nausea and pain from the gall bladder enough that I didn’t have to drug my self! YAY!
I was reintroduced to dandelion when I took an herbal medicine making class this weekend at Sun People Dry Goods. I will give a shout out to the class and the store. There are two more classes in the series that I will miss because we are moving to CO! So sad. If you get a chance I would highly recommend it. In the next class they are discussing sacred gathering techniques, making salves and doing some herb and flower gathering! I digress.
So we were discussing the plants that are great to harvest in the spring and dandelions were one of them. If you could see my front yard you would know that we do a very good job here at Chet Labrow at cultivating dandelions… not on purpose I promise you, it mostly happened with years of benign neglect. After some inspiration I decided to harvest these plants, mostly for the roots and flowers, but now that I read more about them I will go back for leaves and dry them for tea. And as added bonus, there are less dandelion plants in the yard! That will make the landscapers happy when they come to sod our yard.
What I got from my first gathering session is a large strainer of dandelion root. The leaves were thrown away and the flowers thrown back to the lawn (thanks to my Husband). I will have a post about how to process, dry, and prepare roots for tea in another post.
Dandelions have many tasty uses, and are very beneficial to health. The thick juicy root grows deep into the ground tapping into minerals in the dirt and taking those minerals into its self for a health benefit equal to spinach or brocoli (according to the book Natural Healthy by Nerys Purchon). The best time according to the book to harvest the roots is the fall and winter because the roots are sweetest. In the class the teacher said the spring was the best time because the roots had spent all winter taping into the earth and investing their energy into growing deep and strong roots. I will try the fall gathering in CO and let you know if there is a difference.
The young leaves have a great flavor and are wonderful accents to salads, sandwiches or juices (green smoothie anyone?). The older leaves I would avoid eating straight, they are very bitter and not very tasty. If you are starving and need food and all you have is old dandelion leaves you can boil them… but who would want to?
When drunk as a tea, the leaves are a powerful (and safe) diuretic; they are also a source of potassium, which is vital for the body and is stripped from the body with most other diuretics.
The flowers are edible. They have a slight savory bitter first flavor with floral after tones. I have only eaten them raw right off of the plant, but I plan to try a dandelion fritter recipe I got from a friend. The flowers I harvested from this batch my hubby threw out, thinking that I just took the flowers off for Ellie to play with, and not actually to eat… Did I mention he thinks I am kinda kookie? The flowers can also be added to salads, or be made into wine! What a great idea… I am going to have to try that! I love wine… any anything that you can make wine with can’t be bad right?
When drunk as a decoction** two or three times daily, the roots gently stimulate the liver and gall bladder. I drank it as a tea and let the tea sit for 3-4 hours instead of boiling the roots straight because I didn’t think to go out and dig in my front yard, but instead bought Traditional Medicinals tea.
The roots and leaves are used for their anti-inflamitory and cleansing properties and can help relieve joint inflamation.
Also, apparently the latex sap that oozes from the cut stem is traditionally the best way of getting rid of warts. Apply the latex several times a day to the wart (not the surrounding skin where it can cause irritation). Too bad it doesn’t work on moles… we have a lot of those to test this out on! But alas, we are wart free. If you have a wart try it out and let me know if this works!
*As a warning please consult your natropath or herbalist to learn which herbs are safe to eat or use while pregnant. Herbs can be potent and affect your pregnancy or child negatively. The FDA does not regulate herbs or herbal remedies so make sure you surround your self with knowledgeable people before you take anything! Also as another note, allopathic medical practitioners are not trained in herbalism or natural healing/relief and are terrified of anything natural. This does not mean that there are no natural aides, it just means you have to be cautious and knowledgeable.
**Decoction is a method of extraction, by boiling, of dissolved chemicals, or herbal or plant material, which may include stems, roots, bark and rhizomes. Decoction involves first mashing, and then boiling in water to extract oils, volatile organic compounds, and other chemical substances. The process can also be applied to meats and vegetables to prepare bouillon or stock.
A decoction is also the name for the resulting fluid. Decoctions differ from most teas, infusions, or tisanes, in that they are usually boiled. The term is used colloquially in South India to refer to black coffee prepared by the traditional method.