dandelions

You may consider dandelions a common and obnoxius weed, but did you know that their roots, leaves and flowers are delicious and can be used as a natural cure? The benefits of dandelion in teas, coffee, culinary creations and tinctures surpass its annoyance factor as a weed with an incredibly long taproot. Learn how to make dandelion weeding an exciting wildcrafting harvest instead of a tiresome gardening chore!

Habitat
A member of the Compositae or daisy family, dandelions are native to Europe and Asia, but have successfully spread themselves across all of North America and most of Australia, making them one of the most common plants in our culture. However, not only humans recognize this leafy, yellow-headed plant, but so do bugs. Dandelion is a significant honey plant, and its nectar is enjoyed by 93 different species of insects, making it an important source of nutrition for wildlife. The plant grows well in full-sun and well-drained soil that is rich in nitrogen.

Medicinal
In previous centuries, dandelions were considered effective in curing liver and kidney complaints, as the plant is a blood purifier. Still used for its medicinal properties, the plant can cure skin diseases such as eczema, which result from dysfunctional liver or kidneys that cannot adequately remove impurities from the blood. Dandelion can also improve appetite and digestion, and is a mild laxative that can cure chronic constipation when used regularly. As a diuretic, dandelion is often used instead of chemical pharmaceuticals with the same effect, as it actually helps the body restore potassium instead of pulling it out.

Culinary
Dandelion roots, leaves and flowers can all be used in cooking, making this backyard weed your newest culinary inspiration. Richer than carrots in vitamin A, the leaves and flowers are perfect bulkers for spring salads, or ideal as a side dish when sautéed. When cultivating the leaves for salads, protecting them from the sun will give them a less bitter, more palatable flavor. The roots can be used in teas, as a coffee stretcher, or even wines and beers. Spring is the best time to harvest younger, sweeter roots for use in stews or stir frys, whereas roots harvested in the fall will be more bitter (and a great blend for dark roast coffee), containing more medicinal properties. Check out the recipes below and get digging!

Dandelion Salad With Garlic Confit Dressing – Simple and full of flavor, this recipe will relegate dandelions to the top of your favorite leafy greens list. Add a few flowers as a garnish.

Dandelion Tea – Reap the health benefits of the plant with the warm cuppa goodness! Add honey and lemon to taste.

Italian Style Dandelion Greens – Simple, quick and incredibly easy, this recipe can be slightly tweaked by adding your favorite herbs to the mix.

Dandelion Pesto – Switch out summery basil for dandelion greens in this springtime version of the ubiquitous Italian spread.

Dandelion Fritters – This recipe uses dandelion flowers, which take on a mushroom flavor when fried. Serve with breakfast eggs or drizzle with honey for a sweet treat.

Dandelion Blossom Cake – Using dandelion blossom syrup (recipe included) in this cake gives it a decadently wild flavor. Add rose petals in place of dandelion petals for a Middle Eastern twist.

Spiced Dandelion Wine – A zesty and unique alternative to grape wines, this is definitely one for any enthusiastic home brewer to try.

Dandelion Root Zucchini Cake – This loaf uses ground dandelion powder in place of cocoa powder for a delicious, dark chocolate flavor.

Dandelion Root Coffee – Looking for a totally natural, caffeine-free coffee alternative that you can roast in your own oven? You’ve just found it.

Immunity Boosting Soup – Dandelion root, burdock root, ginger, kelp and shiitake mushrooms get together in this fantastic flu fighting remedy. 

Image: where paths meet