The Beauty and Benefits of Dandelions
Dandelion, the Wonder Weed of the Wild
Do you remember playing with Dandelion Clocks?
We used to tell the time by counting how many puffs it took to denude a dandelion - is this something everyone did? Dandelion seeds are carried away by the wind and travel like tiny parachutes, often miles away from the parent plant.
We also believed that if we could blow away all the seeds in one breath then maybe our wish would come true. We would have been better off eating the dandelions instead of puffing at the filamentous achenes for the common dandelion has absolutely wonderful health benefits.
Use your own dandelions!
Plants gathered from parks or at the roadside may have been sprayed with chemicals.
If you aren't sure, DON'T use them.
Benefits of Dandelion Tea
I don't know about you, but the word bile has always sounded off-putting to me. I suppose it's the connection to bilious. So let me just say quickly that bile acts to some extent as a detergent, helping to emulsify fats, is an important part of the absorption of the fat-soluble vitamins D, E, K and A, neutralises any excess stomach acid before it enters the small intestine and kills invading microbes which enter with food.
Dandelion Tea is a traditional tonic. It strengthens the entire body and promotes the flow of bile in the liver and gallbladder. It's good for chronic hepatitis, reduces liver swelling and jaundice, and assists indigestion which is caused by insufficient bile. (I'm not going to mention that word again).
Dandelion tea and me I was introduced to dandelion tea as a teenager by my Great Aunt Bessie. She promised I would get relief from premenstrual bloating and tenderness by drinking dandelion tea. She was right!
These days, after a few glasses of wine, I quaff a cup of dandelion tea before I go to bed. I've never seen any scientific explanation for this but, without the tea, I wake up fuzzy headed, furry tongued and cranky. Life is too short to be cranky.
Making Dandelion Tea
You can buy Dandelion Tea in packets now. If you want to make your own, here's what I still do. The method hasn't changed since I was in my teens, but the possibility of pesticides is higher so only use your home grown dandelions.
Get some dandelion roots. Wash them thoroughly in cold water. Chop, and crush, as best as you can. You can place them in a shallow baking tray and roast gently on low heat for 5 minutes or so if you like, or just use them without roasting.
Put one teaspoon of dandelion root in a cup of boiling water and add a drop of honey. This takes the same amount of time as making a cup of instant coffee.
Talking of coffee, you can buy dandelion coffee too. In the prepared product, the roots are slightly roasted and ground ready to use.
Some people say that it's indistinguishable from real coffee, but I beg to differ. It has its own taste, pleasant enough, but certainly nothing like the coffee I'm used to drinking. However, it's better than lower quality coffee, which has all too often been adulterated.
Trying to give up Coffee?
If you're trying to give up coffee, dandelion root makes an excellent substitute in the morning. Energy without caffeine!
The Dandelion Clock
A dandelion is really many tiny flowers bunched together.After a dandelion blooms, each of its tiny flowers produces a seed. Each seed is attached to a stem with white fluffy threads.
The Dandelion Leaves
- Dandelion leaves are a valuable alkaliser to the body, and recommended for anyone with liver complaints. Eaten regularly as a preventative, they help to keep the liver at peak efficiency.
- They assist the body to reduce excess acidity, they oxygenate, purify and build blood, and they cleanse and regenerate cells
- The bitter principles stimulate the digestion by the production of stomach acids and enzymes and, in doing so, make it easier to digest fats and oils.
Medicinal Benefits of Dandelions
Dandelion is regarded as one of the very best herbs for gall, spleen and liver complaints. It's one of the safest and most active plant diuretics.
My grandmother called a dandelion Pee the Bed which shocked me with its vulgarity as a child but now I know it's the Anglicised version of the modern French name, Piss en Lit, which is just as vulgar.
We call this lovely weed by an older French word Dent de Lion, Lion's Teeth, and one look at the deeply toothed leaves will tell you why.
But there's a good reason to call the dandelion Pee the Bed.
Dandelions give the kidneys an urge to expel urine, improving the way they cleanse the blood and recycle nutrients. Unlike pharmaceuticals diuretics, this doesn't leach potassium, a vital mineral, from the body.
When you have good kidney function, you have Improved general health and clear skin. Simple as that.
Dandelions for Dinner
Dandelion leaves are at their best when they've just emerged from the ground.
Collect dandelion leaves in early spring, when they're the tastiest, before the flowers appear. Make sure you pick only the very young plants, for once the flower buds are fully formed, the leaves became bitter. Choose dandelions with intensely serrated leaves and white stems.
Cut the florets just above the root, remove any semi-formed flower buds and fluff, wash thoroughly in several rinses of cold water. Don't use hot water and don't boil them.
Dandelion greens are wonderful in salads, and when they are sauteed or steamed.
The leaves are incredibly nutritious. Let's suppose you saw a packet of pills in the supermarket that promised more beta-carotene than carrots, higher iron and calcium content than spinach, vitamins B-1, B-2, B-5, B-6, B-12, C, E, P, and D, biotin, inositol, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, and zinc. Would you buy those pills?
Go and pull up some dandelions from your lawn instead. They're fresh, free and phenomenal.
I can't give you exact measurements in this recipe for Dandelion Cordial. It depends on how many flowers you end up with.
The exact number of flowers isn't important as you adjust the water quantity.
Total Time: 1 day
- Dandelion flowers
- Wash the flowers and detach the yellow petals from the green leaves. (We use the petals only).
- In a saucepan, cover the petals with water, mixing well until all petals are covered. Bring to the boil and take the pan off the heat
- Pour into a clean jug or jar, cover and let the mixture infuse in the fridge overnight
- The next day, filter the mixture through a fine sieve and press with a spoon to extract all juice from the boiled petals. Add a little lemon juice to the taste.
- Weigh the liquid using cups as a measurement. For every cup of liquid, add 1/2 cup of sugar.
- Mix well and heat slowly until all sugar is dissolved
- Filter again and store in a bottle
- Serve diluted.
Wild Foods - A world of wild foods outside
Highly recommended for naturalists, gardeners, foragers, frugalists, survivalists, and anyone who longs to explore the wild garden growing around them.
If you're a botanist you won't need all these colour photographs of edible plants but, if you're just getting started in foraging, there's just no substitute for clear colour photographs
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How about you?
Do you eat any 'weeds'?
© 2009 Susanna Duffy