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Dandelions are No Lawn Menace

Dandelions are No Lawn Menace

Many wild plants and “weeds” are some of the most nutrient-dense greens you can eat. It is only in the past 100 or so years, as our food system became more and more industrialized, that wild superfoods dropped out of our diet. So I try to include them in mine when I can.

This spring I am enjoying Stinging Nettle Paté, made from the weeds in my garden, and wild arugula often graces my salad bowl—another delicious and nutritious garden weed.

And if that weren’t delicious enough, this week, my CSA box had two bunches of dandelion greens, which are very easy to grow, medicinal, and very, very good for you.

History

The dandelion is so much more than a bothersome weed in your lawn. Dandelion is thought to be originally native to the Central Asian region, but has become naturalized in many parts of the world, including North America because it literally “grows like a weed” in almost any soil and climate.

Throughout history, it has been known as food, medicine and drink. Once known in France as Dent de Lion (lion’s tooth), the dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) is mostly now known as a weed. Yet, at one time, the dandelion was so prized as a food and medicinal plant that it was intentionally brought to America by European settlers.

Nutrition

Dandelions rank in the USDA’s top 4 green vegetables for overall nutritional value. Dandelions are nature’s richest green vegetable source of beta-carotene, and the third richest source of Vitamin A of all foods, after cod-liver oil and beef liver! Dandelions also are particularly rich in fiber, potassium, iron, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and the B vitamins, thiamine and riboflavin, and are a good source of protein.

In addition to their incredible nutrient density, dandelions contain active chemical constituents which may have specific therapeutic effects on the body. These include:

  • Tof-CFr, a glucose polymer which Japanese researchers have found to act against cancer cells in laboratory mice;
  • Pectin, which is anti-diarrheal and also forms ionic complexes with metal ions, which probably contributes to dandelion’s reputation as a blood and gastrointestinal detoxifying herb. Pectin is prescribed regularly in Russia to remove heavy metals and radioactive elements from body tissues. Pectin can also lower cholesterol and, combined with Vitamin C, can lower it even more. Dandelion is a good source of both Pectin and Vitamin C;
  • Coumestrol, an estrogen mimic which possibly is responsible, at least in part, for stimulating milk flow and altering hormones;
  • Apigenin and Luteolin, two flavonoids which have diuretic, anti-spasmodic, anti-oxidant and liver protecting properties, and also to strengthen the heart and blood vessels. They also have anti-bacterial and anti-hypoglycemic properties, and, as estrogen mimics, may also stimulate milk production and alter hormones;
  • Gallic Acid, which is anti-diarrheal and anti-bacterial;
  • Linoleic and Linolenic Acid, which are two essential fatty acids required by the body to produce prostaglandins, which can regulate blood pressure, lower chronic inflammation, and prevent platelet aggregation;
  • Choline, which has been shown to help improve memory;
  • Sesquiterpene compounds, which are what make dandelions bitter. These may partly account for dandelions tonic effects on digestion, liver, spleen and gall bladder, and are highly anti-fungal;
  • Triterpenes, which may contribute to bile or liver stimulation;
  • Taraxasterol, which may contribute to liver and gall bladder health or to hormone altering.

These chemicals, individually, are not unique to dandelions, but the combination of them all in one plant, along with high levels of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients, makes dandelion an extremely valuable—yet free—superfood.

Uses in Herbal Medicine

The dandelion is part of Asian, Middle Eastern, European and Native American traditional healing practices as well as contemporary herbal medicine. Historically, dandelion had a diverse range of therapeutic uses but today’s herbalists mainly use it as an appetite stimulant and digestive aid.

The modern French name for dandelion is pissenlit, which pretty much means “wet the bed.” That is because the leaves can be a mild diuretic, helping your body remove excess water.

Dandelion leaves can be concentrated in teas and tinctures, and used to treat conditions affecting the liver, kidneys and gallbladder, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Some research suggests that it may play a role in improving immune system function and promoting gastrointestinal health.

Dandelion seeds can be taken regularly as a preventative measure to help keep the liver healthy. They can also be used to help lower acidity and inflammation in the body, as well as purify the blood and regenerate healthy cells. Dandelion seeds are said to help stimulate digestion through the production of stomach acids and enzymes, making it easier to digest fats and oils.

Selection and Storage

While dandelion greens can be found at health food stores, co-ops and farmers markets, they are probably widely available during the spring and early summer months in your own backyard. Because dandelion is so easy to grow, the dandelion greens that you find in the store are typically organic.

Commercially cultivated dandelion greens may have whitish/green or red stems. The leaves are highly perishable. Store them in the fridge in a large plastic tub with a piece of paper towel to absorb excess moisture and condensation. If you store wet leaves in a produce bag, they will likely only last for a couple of days.

If you forage for dandelion, it is important to harvest wild dandelions in a natural setting, such as an open meadow, in order to avoid pesticide and lawn fertilizer exposure. Alternatively, you can sow dandelion seeds in your garden. In addition to simply picking a wild one for its seeds, there are many gourmet varieties of dandelion available through heirloom and specialty seed catalogs.

It’s best to pick dandelion greens (and all greens) in the morning when the sun is weak, as all greens tend to wilt if the sun is too intense. Tender, new leaves are sweetest; old leaves, midribs, and leaves growing with flowers are bitter.

To harvest, simply cut a clump of new leaves an inch or so above ground level, making sure there are no flower buds yet that would make the plant bitter. Dandelions will cut-and-come-again like some lettuces or celery if you leave an inch or two of the plant behind.

For the forager, there is not a part of the dandelion that needs to go to waste. In the early spring, before the flower buds have begun pushing up from the crown, dandelion greens make a special addition to meals, either raw in a salad or smoothie, or cooked in coconut oil, butter or bacon fat, like spinach. (The presence of the fat with cooked dandelions will make the nutrients in them even more bioavailable!)

Once the flowers begin to bloom and the leaves become bitter, you can pick them for eating or winemaking (recipe below). Dandelion flowers can be added fresh to salads and sautéed, fried or steamed with other vegetables.

The long taproot of the dandelion is generally dug when the plant enters its second year of life. Generally, roots are harvested in summer for medicinal purposes or in autumn for roasting and grinding into a chicory-flavored coffee substitute.

Dandelion seeds can be harvested throughout the year and are commonly taken as a supplement to heal the body of various ailments, as well as to grow next year’s crop.

Dandelion Salad with Warm Pecan Vinaigrette

Adapted from The Gourmet Cookbook by Reichl, et. al.

  • 2 large bunches young dandelion greens, tough stems discarded (harvest before flowering or greens will be bitter)
  • 3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, butter or refined coconut oil (refined doesn’t taste like coconut)
  • 4 stalks green garlic or 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup pecans, coarsely chopped (soaked and dehydrated ahead of time)
  • 1-1/2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp. sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper
  1. Cut top 5 inches from greens and transfer to a large heatproof serving bowl.
  2. Cut remaining greens into 3/4 inch slices and add to bowl.
  3. Heat oil or butter in a small heavy skillet over moderate heat. Add garlic and nuts and cook, stirring, until garlic is golden.
  4. Stir in vinegar, salt, and pepper.
  5. Pour warm vinaigrette over greens and toss to combine.
  6. Enjoy!

Dandelion Wine

Makes about 4 quarts

Dandelion wine does not require any special equipment to make. Just dandelions, some sugar and yeast, oranges and lemons, and pots to boil water in. This recipe uses cloves, which I think give it a nice touch. If you have lots of dandelions around, give it a try!

  • 1 package dried wine or brewer’s yeast
  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • 2 quarts dandelion blossoms
  • 4 quarts water
  • 1 cup fresh orange juice
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 8 whole cloves
  • 1/2 tsp. powdered ginger
  • 3 Tbsp. coarsely chopped orange peel
  • 1 Tbsp. coarsely chopped lemon peel
  • 6 cups Rapadura, panela, or whole cane sugar
  1. Dissolve the yeast in the warm water. Set aside.
  2. Wash the dandelion blossoms well, making sure to separate the flower petals from the base of the blooms (sepals).
  3. Put the flowers in the water with the orange, lemon and lime juices.
  4. Add the cloves, ginger, orange and lemon peel, and sugar.
  5. Bring to a boil and continue to gently boil for an hour, stirring occasionally.
  6. Strain through filter paper (coffee filters work great). Cool.
  7. While still warm (but not hot to touch), stir in the yeast.
  8. Let stand overnight and pour into bottles.
  9. Allow uncorked bottles to set in a darkened place for three weeks. Then cork and store bottles in a cool place.
  10. Best if allowed to age the wine at least 3 months, longer is better.
  11. Enjoy on a warm summer night or anytime you need a taste of summer.

Shared with Seasonal Celebration Sunday, Simply Natural Saturday, Weekend Whatever, Sunday School, Weekend Gourmet, The Morris Tribe, Make Your Own MondayReal Food 101Monday Mania, Better Mom Mondays, Thanks Goodness its Monday! Homestead Barn HopMore the MerrierMeatless Mondays, Country Garden Showcase, Natural Parenting Blog Hop, Fat Tuesdays, Titus 2sday, Anti-Procrastination Tuesdays, Tutorial Tuesdays, Traditional Tuesday, Frugal Tuesday TipDomestically Divine TuesdaysHearth and Soul Hop, Learning Herbs, The Gathering Spot, Allergy Free Wednesday, Gluten Free Wednesdays, Real Food Wednesday, Homestead Helps Wednesday, Cottage Garden PartyWildcrafting Wednesdays, Wicked Awesome Wednesday, Well Fed Wednesdays,  Simple Living Wednesdays, Party Wave WednesdayHealthy 2day Wednesday, Homemaking Link-upWomen Living Well WednesdaysFrugal Days, Sustainable WaysWhole Food Wednesdays, Seasonal Eats Sheet, Pennywise PlatterCreative Juice, Home and Garden ThursdayShow Off Your StuffThe Mommy ClubYour Green ResourceSimple Lives Thursday, Tasty Traditions, Full Plate Thursday, Thank Your Body Thursday, HomeAcre Hop, Raw Food Thursdays, Gluten Free FridaysWeekend Wellness, Home & Family Friday,Fight Back FridaysFresh Bites Friday, Old Fashioned Friday, Link Love, Healthy Vegan Friday, Foodie Friday, LHITS DIY LinkyShow and Tell Friday, and the Weekend Bloggy Linkup

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MEDICAL DISCLOSURE: Your health is between you and your health care practitioner. Nothing in this blog is intended for the treatment or prevention of disease, nor as a substitute for medical treatment, nor as an alternative to medical advice. Use of recommendations is at the choice and risk of the reader.




46 Comments

  1. Very interesting, I love these informational posts! :) Thanks for linking up at our Gluten Free Fridays party! I have tweeted and pinned your entry to our Gluten Free Fridays board on Pinterest! :)

    Hope that your week is fantastic!

    Cindy from vegetarianmamma.com

  2. I eat the flowers while I’m gardening…no shortage of them there :)
    Thanks for sharing on The HomeAcre Hop! Hope to see you again tomorrow!
    http://www.theselfsufficienthomeacre.com/2013/05/the-homeacre-hop-18.html

  3. I have been eating dandelion greens all my life and have written about them extensively also. They are more nutritious than spinach and I highly recommend their consumption.

  4. I tried a dandelion salad the other day, knowing they are healthy – but not knowing why. I’m having some liver and candida problems, so I think I’ll pursue them more aggressively, now. Thanks for all the helpful info!

  5. We have plenty of dandelions at the farm, so this post will be helpful in many ways. Thanks so much for including it at Foodie Friday!

  6. very interesting post. Thanks for sharing!

  7. If one’s lawn was previously treated with Roundup, how many years should one wait before consuming dandelion and other weeds grown on this lawn?

    • I can’t say for sure, but I personally would wait at least two years. Round-up is really nasty stuff.

  8. Wonderful post! Linked to it in my Dandelion Round-up today!

    http://texifornia.blogspot.com/2012/05/friday-file-round-up-dandelions.html

  9. Well, this is marvelous information – perhaps we should think of harvesting not weeding when dealing with them! I do appreciate you sharing with Home and Garden Thursday,
    Kathy

  10. Even though dandelions are not a native plant, I have great respect for them. Personally I find the flowers pretty and use the nutricious leaves in salads too.
    An informative post.

  11. Great post! It’s so funny to me that some people work so hard to eradicate these lovely “weeds” from their yards, and I search them out and pick them for the table. I love to throw dandelion greens and roots in my juicer. And dandelion root mixed with beet root makes a great coffee!

  12. please do come over and share at the Garden Party at Fishtail Cottage! So much great info. xoox, tracie

  13. You do such a great job with your informative posts! Love it! Thanks for sharing. Dandelions scare me. I would try them but I need to get my soil tested first. My community was an old farm (probably not organic). Several trees we have planted have died, so I am guessing there are lots of nasties in the soil. :(

  14. Dandelions just saved my rabbit and I definitely have a new respect for them. Our rabbit was sick for a long time and wouldn’t eat or drink anything. I even took her to the vet and they gave me medicine but I was seeing no improvement. I was keeping her alive by syringe feeding her water and pineapple juice numerous times a day. Then I decided to take her outside and see if she would be interested in anything fresh out there. I noticed she ate some dandelion leaves. So I started picking some and bringing them to her several times a day and she loved them and got better. It took about a week before she was all better but I totally credit the dandelions with saving her.

    • What a great story! Dandelions are some powerful food and medicine. Thanks for sharing!

  15. Dandelions are definitely on my “try asap” list. Another great post from you full of great information! Thanks so much for sharing with Hearth and Soul!

  16. i love dandelion salad and your recipe sounds great.

    thanks so much for this interesting and informative post.
    i thoroughly enjoyed it!!

    happy thursday!

  17. I do lik ethem in salads.

  18. Wonderfully informative post! I love greens, but never knew so much about the benefits of dandelions. I will definitely have to add their leafy goodness to my meals! :D

  19. I really feel I now have an extensive knowledge of the dandelion-a personal favourite as it’s our logo at Natural Mothers Network!

  20. I’ve heard of dandelion wine and salad — your recipes are very interesting and a great way to use up those dandelions! :)

  21. My dad made us eat dandelion greens. I wasn’t a fan then, but have become more tolerant of foods as an adult. Perhaps I’ll give them a try again. Nice shot!

    • Just make sure to get the leaves before flowering or they will be a bit bitter. Also, if you remove the midribs, they are less bitter too.

  22. I have not yet eaten dandelions, but I have a huge collection growing in my yard because I don’t “weed and feed” my lawn. I look forward to trying out some of the recipes!

  23. I was amazed to see dandelions as a seasonal ingredient for my area so I have been looking for ways that it is eaten. Your post is informative and inspiring! I would love for you to link up this recipe on my Seasonal Eats May roundup found here, which highlights posts about using seasonal ingredients in great recipes.

  24. we are neighbors @ wlw…I was sick for a number of years…I would go out and dig up dandelions and juice the roots…I do think they get a bad wrap. blessings to you~

  25. I love to pick them and feed them to my chickens. Plus, if I didn’t have them in my lawn, it wouldn’t be green! 8^)

  26. It was this post that finally led me to try dandelions for supper this evening. Sauteed with a little butter and a dash of red wine vinegar… not bad. I think we’ll have them as a raw salad later this week, too. Our four-year-old was excited to try them and they were a bit bitter for him and his two-year-old brother, but at least they tried!

  27. Dandelions? I have heard of this before in regards to eating them but wasn’t sure what to do with them. Thanks for all the great info!

  28. Love this post! I have a plethora of these in my yard at our new country home. Would love to give these recipes a try. Thanks for sharing!

  29. What a great and thorough post! I love using the dandelions from my front yard, LOL, the dogs take over the backyard so I don’t harvest them from there. I like pulling/harvesting the roots right after a good rain, they come up so easily that way! Right now I have a dandelion tonic “brewing”…I like to use it for liver support.
    Would you mind sharing this post on my new link-up…I am sure my readers would enjoy it! Thanks!
    ( http://www.likeamustardseed.com/2012/05/01/learning-herbs-rosemary-and-a-new-tuesday-link-up/ )

  30. This is such an informative post. Thank you. I love dandelions and buy them, but despite having a yard and neighborhood full of them, all the neighbors use chemicals to control. I won’t even eat the one’s in my yard since previous owners chem lawned all..I only eat what I grow in pots on my deck..

  31. Thankyou so much for this post! I am so excited to learn more about this plant and have actually been doing some research on them as of late. I want my girls to know more about wild plants but first I have to learn about them myself! :) Thankyou!! I am working on collecting my dandelion info and will link back to you when I am done!!

    http://www.ourbrokenroad.blogspot.com

  32. As usual, a full and informative post! This is quite interesting and I didn’t know that much about the dandelion, although I had heard parts of it used as a coffee substitute before. This may make a great leaf to juice to add to some of my recipes for juicing. Thanks for the information!

    Blessings,
    Nicole at Working Kansas Homemaker

    • You really can’t beat dandelion in a green juice or smoothie. It is one of the most nutritious greens on the planet! It is a bit bitter though, so you might need to cut it with carrot or apple.

  33. My Dad used to make wine with them. What a great post. I am hosting my 2nd blog hop and would love it if you would share this with my followers. Can’t wait to give this a try. Diane @ MamalDiane.com

  34. Great post! I found it through Fat Tuesday :) It caught my eye because for the past 2 weeks I’ve been covering how to cook with dandelions over at my blog. With the flowers, I made muffins, a cream of dandelion soup, and some veggie burgers – also made other foods with the greens..this is such an amazingly versatile plant!

    Anyways, here are the links in case you’re interested. I’m also linking to your post because I love the way you organized the health benefits in such a clear, concise manner!
    http://naturesnurtureblog.com/2012/04/22/dandelions-friend-or-foe-with-recipes/
    http://naturesnurtureblog.com/2012/04/28/dandelions-friend-or-foe-part-2-flowers/

  35. Thank you for this post! I will go to my backyard today and will pick up some new dandelion leaves to make that salad. I doubt anyone in my family will eat the leaves, but I will :)))

  36. You have made me realize how much I don’t know about plants. It is interesting and I hope to do some reading on the topic. Thanks for linking to My Meatless Mondays.

  37. This is awesome! I love Dandelions too! I jsut did a post about them not too long and I just PLANTED some seeds in my garden a few weeks ago. I am currnetly enjoyingthe wild one’s that I didn’t plant. :)

    http://ournourishingjourney.com/2012/04/05/im-in-love-with-dandelion/

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