If you haven't noticed walking around town...it's Dandelion Season! Most people look at the dandelion as weed, a pest, and invasive plant that takes over our yards and gardens, a threat that must be poisoned. I look at it a little differently. I see a plant full of potential, I see a free source of food and medicine, I see a fun afternoon teaching my children about what nature has to offer.
If you are thinking of spraying your dandelions this year...STOP! Why not take this year to try something new. Let's try picking them, and using them to there full potential. You will not only reduce the number in your yard, but by picking them before they seed, reduce future plants as well as come up with some wonderful products and dishes.
Proper Dandelion Identification
We all think we know what Dandelion looks like, but do we really? There are a couple of other plants/weeds that have similar flowers to Dandelion, but are not Dandelion.
The leaves of the Dandelion grow in a rosette around a single, large taproot. The leaves are toothy with deep, irregular notches, are hairless with a pointed tip. The flowers are yellow, with no other specs of color and also grow out from the single taproot. There should also be a milky substance inside the hollow stem.
There are several "false dandelions" or species that are similar in appearance to dandelions. In town, we may not come across these as often, but if you are foraging in the national forest, be on the lookout for look-a-likes. Key features are the hairless leaves of the Dandelions. Several look-a-likes have tiny hairs that grow on their leaves, some just at the base of the leaves. Another feature is the flower being a solid yellow. Some look-a-likes have brown flecks in the yellow petals. Some similar species include the Sow-Thistle, Agoseris, Mountain Dandelion, False Dandelion, and the Smooth's Cat's Ear.
All parts of the Dandelion are edible, and are used for different purposes. Typically the leaves are used as food, and the rest is used for tea and medicine. They are cooked similarly to spinach, chard, kale and other leafy greeds.
Dandelions are a wonderful source of vitamins. 1 cup of Dandelion Greens provides (112%) 5588IU Vitamin A, (535%) 428mcg Vitamin K.
Leaves are best harvested in spring before the flowers have opened. But the entire plant can be harvest and divided into parts for different uses before the flowers have gone to seed.
How to use Dandelion Leaves
Like I mentioned above, the leaves are the most commonly eaten part of the plant. They can be left raw, in salads, cooked down like spinach, or made into pesto. Get Creative! The possibilities in the kitchen are endless. I will post some of our dandelion recipes as we make them this year.
How to use Dandelion Flowers
The flowers are also edible, and can be used to add color to salads. But the best use of Dandelion flowers in culinary use is for DANDELION WINE!
The flowers do make a mellow diuretic tea, but more often the roots are used in tea.
You can also use the flowers to make a unique jelly.
This is a new one for me, and I will let you know how it turns out this year.
Flowers can be made into several different medicinal preparations.
Salves are a very easy and popular way to utilize the flower as medicine. The salve is mildly analgesic and can be used on sore muscles, and mild aches and pains.
Dandelion Flower Tinctures are used to help support the Liver and aid in detox.
How to use Dandelion Roots
There are many uses for the roots as well. They can be roasted, dried and used as a Dandelion tea in replace of coffee.
Dandelion Root tinctures are also a common use for the roots. This can be used aid the liver and gallbladder in detoxifying.
Some say that dandelion root aids in appetite suppression as well. But there is no real evidence behind this.
Dandelion is not poisonous, thus quite a large dose can be taken. Therefore it is considered safe to take by most, including children.
If you have allergies to other similar flowers such as Marigold, Chrysanthemum, Camomile, Yarrow, or Daisies you should avoid Dandelion products.
If you have sensitivities or allergies to Iodine, you should also avoid Dandelion products.
Internal use of Dandelion can cause stomach ache and heartburn. Topical use may cause skin irritation.
Because Dandelion stimulates the Kidney, Liver and Gallbladder, if you have kidney stones, or gallstones, Dandelion should be used with extreme caution.