How to Use Dandelions as Food, Tea and Natural Medicine
Dandelions are considered a nuisance by many. People spend a lot of money to spray poisons all over the ground to kill such “pests”, but dandelions really don't deserve the bad press, in fact they are amazing for your health. We should use them rather than poison them – and ourselves, in the process.
Dandelions are so healthy, they are sold in health food stores in the form of teas and capsules. If you live in an area where they grow in abundance, you can get a potent natural medicine and health tonic for free just by pulling weeds!
Every part of a dandelion can be used. The roots, foliage and flowers are all edible. In fact, they've been used for centuries to treat a variety of conditions, particularly of the kidneys and liver. They increase bile production and act as a diuretic, helping cleanse the body naturally.
Dandelions are an amazing source of nutrients, containing protein, fiber, many phytonutrients, fatty acids, iron, magnesium, calcium and potassium. They are also rich sources Vitamins A, C , D and K.
How to Use Dandelion Greens
Dandelion greens from young plants can be eaten raw in salads. They should be harvested before flowering begins. Once the flowers have emerged the greens can still be used, but should be steamed or boiled instead for best flavor. The older the plant, the more bitter the greens become.
Once you harvest the plants, cut the foliage away from the root. You can use the roots later for tea. Clear the leaves all together and don't pull of individual leaves. Trim the tougher stalky part at the bottom and then cut the remainder of the leaves into 2 inch sections. Light steam in a steamer basket until tender (approx 10 minutes).
Alternatively, you can chop them up and stir fry them in a couple of tablespoons of olive or sesame oil, garlic, and a sprinkle of red pepper flakes if you want to add some spice.
Harvest and Prepare Dandelion Roots
Dandelion roots often run deep into the ground. They can be a little hard to pull out of soil that is packed tight. Harvesting after it rains can make them a little easier to pull out. When you harvest them, grab the plant with one hand and take a knife or the edge of a hand spade around the other side to loosen the soil and then pull them free. Sometimes they come right out, other times some of the roots break off.
Once you have the plants pulled, remove the tops of the plants and the stringy parts around the roots. Soak the roots in water for several minutes to loosen any additional dirt. Rinse again until they are clean and then chop them into very small ¼ to ½ inch pieces.
Place the chopped roots on a cookie sheet and roast at 200 for about an hour to dry the roots fully. They will shrink a lot in this process. When they are finished drying, place them in an airtight jar and use them for tea.
Add a tablespoon of dried root to a pot of boiling water and steep for 5 minutes or longer. Strain, add honey or a bit of cinnamon and enjoy. The longer dandelion tea steeps the more bitter it can become.
**Did You Know? **
Many people use Dandelions for wine making? It's true - dandelion wine has a very unique, distinct flavor. Try finding someone who makes it or buy a bottle for an interesting experience. My great uncle used to make it and I remember it from when I was growing up :)
Eating Dandelion Flowers
Dandelion flowers can also be cooked and eaten. They have a sweeter flavor than the the slightly bitter greens. Dandelion flowers should be eaten immediately after harvest. Cook them or sprinkle the petals on soups or salads.
Dandelion flowers get their pretty sunshiny color from beta-carotene, a precursor to vitamin A in the body. Vitamin A supports a healthy immune system and is great for healthy vision.
Dandelion Health Benefits
Liver Health: Dandelion promotes a healthy liver, helping it function efficiently and effectively. Dandelion regulates and maintains the proper flow of bile and helps flush fatty buildup and toxins from the liver.
Kidney Health: Dandelion is a natural diuretic that helps prevent renal problems by flushing the kidneys. It clears deposits of toxic substances, including uric acid, from the entire urinary system. It is a natural disinfectant and inhibits the growth of microbes that cause urinary tract infection. Dandelion tea can be a great remedy for those with kidney stones.
Bone Health: Dandelions are an excellent source of calcium and magnesium. They are also loaded with anti-oxidants that protect the bones from damage and loss of density.
Weight Loss: Dandelion tea is said to be good for weight loss for a couple of reasons. It flushes toxins and excess fats out of the liver, allowing the liver to function properly which in turn leads to the easier release of excess body fat. In addition, the natural diuretic effect helps flush fat and toxins through the kidneys.
Cancer Prevention: Dandelion is loaded with antioxidants that neutralize free radicals that can cause cancer. The antioxidants, combined with its detoxing action are a great natural cancer preventative.
Nutrition Information (1 cup)
Percent Daily Value (DV)
1.5 grams Protein
1.9g Dietary Fiber
Never harvest or eat dandelions from areas that have had pesticides/herbicides used or they will make you sick.
Unsure about using dandelions in your area? Perhaps you live in an area where pesticides are used prevalently, or you just don't like the idea of harvesting and cooking them or making tea. Fortunately, there are supplements available that provide many of the same benefits as eating them fresh. Nature's Way has a very reasonably priced dandelion product in capsule form.
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© 2013 Christin Sander
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