Spring is here and with it comes the arrival of a wonderful plant that unfortunately is often regarded as just a lowly weed – the much cursed Dandelion! While others may curse this plant, here at Tilia we consider it a weedy superstar.
In North America this plant is considered a noxious weed that each year people spend huge amounts of money and time trying to eradicate, often to no avail. While North American’s shun this small treasure, in many countries of the world dandelion is actually cultivated as a valued food source. In France in particular it is grown in vegetable gardens to be used as salad greens and other foods dishes. (see below for some great recipes).
Dandelion Folklore & Legend
There is a delightful legend about how dandelions came to be. The legend is that centuries ago, an old miser found a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Instead of sharing it, he decided to bury it in the ground, so that only he could find it. He put the gold in a sack and set off to bury it. He watched very carefully as he travelled, being very careful that no one was following him. He was so intent on his plan that he did not notice the coins dropping out of the sack one by one through a small hole in the bottom. Finally, when he reached the darkest part of the forest, he realized the sack seemed very light. He looked inside, and to his horror the bag was empty! Realizing what had happened he turned and went back to pick all the gold up again. He looked around. Thinking that it should be easily found shining in the grass. He hurried back and bent down to pick them up. But to his astonishment, he could not, for the gold pieces seemed rooted to the ground! Sure enough, when the old miser looked closely, he saw that what had been a shining golden coin was now a beautiful yellow flower! Amazed, he hurried from one golden spot to another, but all the coins had taken root. Little did he know that the wood sprites had overheard his plan to hide the gold away, and to punish him for his selfishness, they changed the coins into Dandelion flowers, for everyone to love and share.
The dandelion derives its name from a corruption of the French Dent de lion or "tooth of the lion." This refers to the jagged leaves rather than to its lion’s mane-like flowers.
Taraxacum, the official botanical name, comes from the Greek taraxos ("disorder") and akos ("remedy"). Ancient herbalists called the weed Herba Taraxacon or Herba Urinaria - the latter because the plant is a diuretic, increasing urination. The French called it “Pis en lie’ which loosely translates to Pee-a-bed! (And this powerful diuretic especially taken at bedtime can live up to its name!). The Irish once knew the plant as heart-fever-grass since it also relieves heartburn. Children have dubbed the dandelion "swine's snout," since the closed-up bloom resembles that shape.
One old superstition said that a person who rubs himself with the flower will be welcome everywhere. It is too bad that the dandelion itself is not always so welcome, everyone is always rushing to get the Roundup to spray on it!
Dandelion has also been known as "blowball" or "tell time," since the number of puffs necessary to dispatch all the seeds was supposed to indicate the time of day. According to another tradition, every puff also sends good thoughts floating towards a loved one.
Dandelion Culinary, Cosmetic & Craft Uses
The flowers, leaves and roots of dandelion are all used for culinary purposes. The yellow flower petals have long been used in a wide range of dishes from salads to wine. The roots have historically been roasted and ground to make a coffee-like beverage. A sherry-like wine fermented from dandelion blossoms has been used as an aperitif before meals for centuries and working men of old preferred herb beers brewed from the greens of dandelion, nettle, and dock. Blossoms have a sweet, honey like flavor when picked young. The green sepals can also be somewhat bitter and should be removed for recipes in which emphasis is placed on the sweet nature of the plant and for any brewed beverage. Pick immediately before using them as the flowers close quickly after picking. Young leaves are richer in Vitamin A than carrots and can be used in salads or steamed and topped with a dressing. The roasted root makes a coffee like beverage on its own or is added to coffee as an extender.
Dandelion is used in skin care as the flowers and white latex found in the stems can help with protecting skin against sun damage. Dandelions are rich in antioxidants, which can help with improving the skin's condition by protecting it against the sun, helping reduce inflammation in the skin, and helping new skin cells grow. It is great for reducing inflammation in the tissue and treating acne. The stems latex has long been used to help decrease freckles, age spots and scars.
All parts of dandelion have been used to create dye for wool and fabric. The flowers create a lovely creamy yellow colour, while the leaves create a yellowy green and the roots a purplish brown colour.
Before you pick any plant and dandelion is no exception, you need to ensure you are harvesting them from an area that has not been sprayed with chemicals; is not too close to road and driveways; or has heavy foot traffic from people and animals. Harvesting should be done on a dry day after all dew has passed and before noon if possible. It is recommended that you just gently brush the dirt off the flowers and leaves rather than washing them as washing them can damage some of the plant constituents. The roots can be washed with lukewarm water to remove soil and then patted dry.
The young leaves of dandelion are harvested in the early spring before the plant flowers. This is when the plant is highest in nutrients and inulin. Although you can harvest them throughout the season, the spring leaves are preferable. The flower heads can be harvested just as they start to open in the early spring and the roots are harvested either in the late fall when the leaves have died back or the very early spring before growth appears. This is when the root is highest in inulin, a non-soluble fiber that has numerous health benefits. All parts of dandelion are best dried on screens.
As you can tell this is a pretty easy plant to gather and at least you will be guaranteed that there is no shortage of dandelion plants available!
Dandelion Medicinal Uses
Historically it has treated just about every physical disorder on record, an extremely versatile herb; dandelion has a role in most health issues. It is a powerhouse nutritionally and it is basically a multivitamin and digestive enzyme rolled into one as it contains Vitamin A, B vitamins – thiamine & riboflavin, Vitamins C and D; as well as calcium, phosphorus, sodium, iron and potassium; protein, enzymes, carotenoids, lecithin, choline and inulin.
The leaves have a powerful diuretic action and it is one of the best herbs you can use where fluid buildup is an issue. It can be used to reduce fluid buildup in conditions such as cardiac edema, hypertension, rheumatic disorders, gout, premenstrual fluid retention, and urinary infections. It can even be used safely to treat edema during pregnancy. It is also useful for general cleansing of the urinary system where it helps to remove toxins and waste from this system.
The mechanism of action for this plants diuretic action is not clearly understood but it is believed that the leaves work as a diuretic by an enzyme action and that it is the only diuretic known to be able to replace the potassium flushed from the body when using a diuretic substance. This is why dandelion leaves are so valuable as a diuretic because it does not lead to the low potassium levels seen in most conventional prescription diuretic medications.
The root dandelion is used to stimulate and tone the liver and pancreas, supporting normal function and the removal of waste material. It can be used in liver/gallbladder condition, post inflammatory hepatitis, constipation, and to cleanse the body after over indulging in rich foods and alcohol. The root helps to tone and strengthen pancreatic function. The constituent inulin slows absorption of sugar from the gut making the plant useful in treating diabetes
The flowers are believed to have a mild analgesic action and are often used in a salve to ease sore, aching muscles. The latex (white sap from plant stem) can be applied externally for warts in addition to bleaching liver spots and freckles. It can also help in a variety of skin conditions as it removes toxins from the system.
These great recipes celebrate this incredible weed, great tasting and powerful medicinal plant!
Several young dandelion leaves, torn (tearing preserves the flavour)
1 onion, chopped
1 carrot, cut in thin strips
1 stick celery, cut in thin strips
A few broccoli pieces
1 red pepper, sliced
2 tablespoons chopped mixed nuts
½ tin chopped tomatoes
2 tablespoons tomato puree
2 or 3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
¼ teaspoon chili powder
Salt/black pepper to taste
Prepare the vegetables and have them ready on separate plates. Crush the cumin and coriander seeds, add the turmeric powder, chili powder, salt and pepper and put to one side. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a wok. When hot, add the onion and stir-fry for a minute. Add the carrot, stir fry for another minute. Add the celery and broccoli, stir-fry for another minute. Add the spices, garlic and dandelion leaves and stir round for another minute. Finally add the nuts, chopped tomatoes and tomato puree and stir until piping hot. Serve with rice. Serves 2.
Dandelion Herbal Jelly
4 Cups dandelion petals
4 1/2 Cups sugar
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
Pick at least 10 cups of dandelion blossoms. Remove the milky stems to avoid a bitter taste. Snip off base of each dandelion flower until you have just yellow petals. Pour boiling water over petals. Steep until room temperature or overnight if possible. Strain through coffee filter to remove spent petals. Add additional water until tea measures 3 Cups. Combine tea, lemon juice, box of pectin, sugar into large saucepan. Boil until jelly sheets on the back of a spoon. Pour into hot jelly jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Secure lid and ring to seal. (Hot water bath method is recommended for sealing).
Dandelion Flower Cookies
½ cup vegetable oil
½ cup honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup unbleached flour
1 cup oatmeal
½ cup dandelion flowers
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Mix the oil and honey and then beat in the 2 eggs and vanilla. Remove the yellow flower parts from the green parts and discard the green parts. Stir in the flour, oatmeal, and dandelion flowers. Drop the batter by tablespoonfuls onto a parchment lined cookie sheet.
Bake for 10-15 minutes.
Dandelion flower tops (about 2 cups)
1 cup milk (or milk substitute)
1 cup white flour (Brown Rice flour can be used for a gluten-free alternative)
For savory fritters add ½ teaspoon of your favourite savory spice. For sweet fritters add ½ teaspoon cinnamon.
Salt & Pepper to taste
Olive oil and/or butter/or coconut oil
Gather Dandelion tops during the day, when the sunshine has opened the flowers. Rinse in cool, lightly salted water, and allow to dry while preparing the batter.
To make the batter, combine egg, milk, flour and spices in a bowl and mix until all lumps are gone. Prepare a skillet on the stove with olive oil (or other oils/combination of oils) over medium heat.
Take one of the flowers, hold it by the greens at the base, dip into the batter, and twirl until the flower is covered in batter. Drop it into the skillet, flower side down. Continue dipping and dropping until the skillet is full. When the fritters are lightly browned, flip them over, and brown on the other side. When finished, remove from the pan and plate.
For a sweet treat, drizzle with maple syrup, honey, jam, or icing sugar.
For a savory snack, dip into aioli or another dipping sauce.
Dandelion Flower Biscuits
1-3/4 cup unbleached white flour
1/4 cup dandelion petals
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. baking powder
2 Tablespoons cold butter
3/4 cup milk
Set oven to 425F Sift together flour, salt and baking powder. Cut in butter until mixture resembles cornmeal. Stir in petals and milk and stir until fully combined. Turn dough onto lightly floured board, and form into a ball. Roll out with a floured rolling pin until the round is about 1/4 inch thick. Cut with biscuit cutter. Place on greased cookie sheet and bake for 12 minutes. Makes 1 1/2 dozen round biscuits
4 liters dandelion blossoms (no stems)
1 gallon boiling water
2 lemons, thinly sliced
2 oranges, thinly sliced
3 lb. white sugar
1/2 lb. raisins
1 package regular yeast
1 teaspoon white sugar
1 cup warm water
Cover the blossoms with boiling water; let stand 24 hours, squeeze and strain. Simmer the liquid with the lemons, oranges and sugar for 20 minutes, then set aside to cool. Dissolve yeast with a teaspoon of sugar in warm water. Add this and the raisins to the liquid. Pour into a gallon jug capped with a balloon or a crock covered with cheesecloth. Allow to ferment 14 days, skim, strain, and re- bottle. Allow to age at least 6 months.
How to Roast Dandelion Roots
Cut off the leaves and scrub the roots. Lay the roots on a baking sheet with the oven turned to its lowest setting and the door ajar. It may take 3-4 hours until the roots are shriveled and snap easily. They are done when the insides of the roots are dark brown.
Dandelion Anti-Freckle Oil
This oil is said to bleach and fade away stubborn freckles, brown age spots and small moles.
4 medium sized fresh dandelion leaves
5 Tablespoons castor oil
Chop the leaves into small pieces and place them with the oil in a small pan over a low heat. Allow to simmer for ten minutes, then remove from the heat. Cover and leave to steep for 24 hours. Strain, then bottle and label.
Dandelion and Chamomile Facial Milk
Dandelion and chamomile milk is a cleansing moisturizer that is particularly good for rough, sallow complexions.
½ cup boiling water
3 Tablespoons chopped chamomile flowers
2 Tbsp. chopped dandelion leaves
½ cup whole milk
Pour the boiling water over the chamomile flowers and dandelion leaves, stir well and allow to steep for twelve hours. Add the milk, whisk thoroughly and leave for a further two hours. Strain, bottle, label and refrigerate. Use within 3 days of making. Apply with a cotton ball, washing skin in a circular motion. Gently rinse skin with lukewarm water after cleansing with the milk.
Dandelion Infused Oil and Healing Salve
Infused Oil - An infused oil is an oil which has had plant material added to extract the healing qualities from it. Infused oils are used in salves, creams, and for making massage oils.
Using fresh plant material: Dandelion is a plant with higher water content and because of this it is best air-dried overnight before infusing, as water can make the oil go rancid. Once dried for at least 8 hours (24 is better) chop them into smaller pieces and placing them in the clear glass jar as this permits greater oil/herb surface contact. Fill the jar no more than 2/3 full and then cover with oil (light oils such as olive oil, sweet almond oil, grape seed oil, apricot kernel oil, or jojoba oil work best). Make sure you completely cover the plant material with the oil (about 2 inches above the plants). Insert a knife along the inside of the jar moving slowly around the sides of the jar to release any trapped air. Cover mouth of the jar with 2 to 3 layers of cheesecloth or a paper towel and secure with an elastic band or a ring from sealer lids. Label and place in a sunny location for 3 to 4 weeks. Gently strain oil into a bowl or measuring cup, being careful not to squeeze plant material or to pour any water that has settled to the bottom of the jar into the final oil blend. Discard plant material. Let oil sit covered with paper towel or cheesecloth for an hour or so, to allow any water to settle to bottom. Pour oil into a dark jar, being careful not to pour any of the sediment or water from the bottom of the oil into the jar. Add the contents of two 800 IU Vitamin E capsules to the oil to prevent spoilage (you should add this amount for every 2 cups of oil). Label and store in a cool dark place. Most oils will last one year. Do not use if they develop a rancid smell.
120 ml (4 oz.) Infused dandelion oil
20 g (2 Tbsp. packed) grated beeswax
Essential oil (optional)
Heat oil and wax over hot water bath just until wax melts, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and add essential oil. Pour into clean salve jars and cool completely before putting lid on. Makes 2 - 2oz. jars.
All material contained herein is provided for general information purposes only and should not be considered medical advice or consultation. Contact a reputable healthcare practitioner if you are in need of medical care