Don’t you just love the warm Spring sunny days? These are especially precious after a cold, snowy winter. The dandelions are often the first thing to flower in my yard, telling me that the worst is over. A few days ago, I had the chance to play around with them in soup, salad, face wash and a cocktail mixture called aperitif.
I was weeding dandelions in the sunshine, and thought it was a waste to throw away the plants. (Really, why weed such a useful plant away at all?) The entire plant is edible – leaves, flowers and roots. I still had plenty in the yard after weeding for future meals, and a patch for the bees, as well.
Dandelions are found all over the world, and are cultivated in France and Germany. The name is a mess-up of Latin dens leonis, or lions’ teeth. The name refers to the serrated edge of the many-petalled flower.^ Another name is puff-ball or blow ball*, probably referring to the ball-like seed head that kids (and big kids) like to blow.
Dandelion is a Digestive Bitter:
The root is a well-known and easy to get digestive bitter, meaning people have used it for many years pre-meals to increase stomach acid (also called hydrochloric acid or HCL). If you take too much, it can make you cold inside or cause constipation, so use a small amount with care, maybe diluted in water. The root is also sometimes grouped with two other herbal roots to supposedly help with bowel disorders over time. (Directions for making below.)
Herbal Properties of Dandelion: The root and leaves have a lot of potassium and vitamins, bioflavonoids to neutralize free-radicals, inulin fiber (which feeds good colon bacteria, mainly in the Fall roots). They are bitter, which stimulates stomach acid secretion, which increases foods’ vitamin absorption and use in our bodies. They help stimulate bile secretion (but see caution below).*
It’s a mild laxative and diuretic, which accounts for its French nickname, pis au lit (pee the bed). It’s also supposed to help with poor digestion, mild skin issues from internal causes, and be a blood purifier.*Cautions: One should avoid its use with biliary obstructions and abscesses, and gallstones.
Unlike other diuretics, which cause a dangerous loss of potassium, dandelions come with lots of potassium as part of the package, so this is less of a problem.
The famous herbalist Susan Weed (website) has a treasure trove
of recipes in her book, Wise Woman Herbal Healing Wise.
I highly recommend reading it if you get a chance, for the herbal and nutrition information. She lists about ten herbs, many of them weeds or common plants. But then she listed their properties and nutrition, and it was really amazing! (I have new respect for watercress and parsley!!) She must have twenty recipes of all kinds for dandelions, so please get a copy.
Susan Weed’s Dandelion Properties:
In addition to the herbal properties above, many of which Ms. Weed also had, she writes that they are pain-relieving, an alkalinizer, and wound-healing! They are high in vitamin C, A, Bs, potassium and calcium. Not bad!
She writes that the dandelion stem sap can get rid of liver spots, so I tried it for one morning, but didn’t continue it regularly enough to know if it really worked. I have to think it does, and I just haven’t done it enough.
I ate one flower, but it tasted slightly sweet and also a bit bitter, like the leaves.
Homemade Herbal Dandelion Face Wash: I decided to try out Susan Weed’s face wash with many dandelion flowers, pouring hot water over them, and letting them cool. Trying it for several days in the morning and
evening, I did notice that my face felt slightly tighter. The face wash “astringes” or tightens the skin, but its not so much that it could be a bad thing. (I am sure you’ve felt that overly-dry-acne-wash feeling, and who wants to really repeat that??) My skin tends to already be dry, so it needs moisturizing and tightening, but not to be keel-hauled by chemical products.
Here in Fort Collins, the dandelions only flower for so long in Spring, so I put the wash into little jars that I can freeze, and use for a few weeks. (I’ve regretted my procrastination in years past.)
How to Prepare Dandelion Root Bitters in a Decoction: The root is prepared like this: Cut up 1 root (3-6 grams maximum) into 2 cups cold water. Simmer in water for 40 minutes, and drink a small amount, and see what you think. [A decoction is a slow simmer of root or tough herbs in water.]@
Dandelion Leaf Tea
I tried the leaves made as tea, and it tasted good, just mildly bitter. I felt good drinking them, with a slightly rising energy, similar to drinking rosemary. I added some later to a fruit smoothie, without tasting it.
Dandelion in Salad I really loved eating the younger leaves in salad, with lots of olive oil, lemon juice and sea salt. I couldn’t get enough! I had to go back for seconds! I mixed them with arugula, chopped raw red onion, and some young Asian greens from a salad box. These would be super great with real bits of bacon, marinated artichokes, or sunflower seeds on top.
The larger leaves are more tough and bitter, so the smaller leaves taste better. All leaves will need a good washing off, and I use a salad spinner as a colander, then spin them dry.
Dandelion Leaf in Soup
I really enjoyed eating the smaller leaves in soup. I cut off the mostly stem part, and used mostly the leaves. Barely cooking them until just soft tasted great (6-8 minutes?). Then I cooked them again for too long (we were about at green mush by then– Darn!), and they became a bit bitter. –Far warning! Less heat is more, here.
Dandelion Aperitif –
This is another of Susan Weed’s recipes. She calls for vodka, sugar, lemon rind, and flowers. You’ll have to see her book for the exact proportions, because I don’t want to plagiarize. I let it sit about two weeks, shaking it daily, and it smelled divine! The lemon oils in the peel are really strong and lovely. It was strained before drinking.
The recipe called for just the flowers, no green. I was trying to cut off the green part under the flower (sepals and stem, thank you, Josh!). Then my mom said you could just pull the two apart. Oops! That was the only tedious part of this recipe. You can have a good belly laugh at my photo, above.
Unfortunately, I didn’t have the proportions just right, as I was a little short of vodka. I was halving the recipe, and still needed about 1/3 cup vodka. I still liked it, but it tasted like sweet lemon cough syrup – very nice, but I could tell that I need to dilute it with more vodka. The flavor was really good, though! I can’t wait to try it at the right mixture ratio.
Where to Gather: You might want to collect yours away from roads, or any lawns sprayed with weed killer.
I hope that YOU will try out some dandelions dishes from your yard. I had a lot of fun with this project, and they’re very nutritious. If you’ve enjoyed this article, how about sharing it with your friends? There are handy “share” buttons just below.
* Source information: Herbal Vade Mecum by Gazmend Skenderi, Herbacy Press, 2003. ^ Natural Health Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine, by Andrew Chevallier, DK Publishing, Inc., 2000
@ Planetary Herbology, by Michael Tierra, Lotus Press, 1988 Wise Woman Herbal Healing Wise, Susan S. Weed, 1989