Making Dandelions Work for You

The bane of every lawn keeper, dandelions serve many culinary and medicinal purposes. Dandelions are actually grown commercially in Europe for medicinal purposes and in the United States as a leaf vegetable.

If you would like to receive something in return for your ongoing weed pulling efforts, here are some of tasty and medicinal ways you can use dandelions in your kitchen from wine to salad. As with any herb, there can be complications when using with a prescription, so always check with your physician first.

First, a note about nutritional value: The leaves and roots of the dandelion are a rich source of vitamins and minerals. Higher in iron and calcium than spinach and higher in beta-carotene than carrots, the dandelion leaves also provide vitamins B-1, B-2, B-5, B-6, B-12, C, E, P, and D, along with biotin, inositol, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, and zinc. Besides adding iron to your diet, the leaves are also one of those foods that helps your body absorb iron. So if you drink a lot of green tea, you may want to much some dandelion teas!

Dandelion Wine: What drink could be more poetic? If you make this delicious, white wine, use only the yellow parts of the flower and not the bitter crown. You can find many recipes for this herbal wine online. After a few hours of weed pulling, enjoy your sweet revenge!

Coffee Substitute: If you like the taste of coffee, you may want to try ground roasted dandelion root. Medicinally, it is enjoyed before meals to stimulate digestive functions.

Entrées: The leaves can be enjoyed raw in salads as well as in sautéed or steamed with other ingredients. Like chicory and endive, dandelion greens offer a hearty flavor with a bitter tinge. Early spring, before the flowers appear, is the time when you will find the tastiest dandelion leaves. Harvest again in late fall after a frost when their protective bitterness disappears.

When you pick dandelion leaves, take the new leaves for salads, since these are the least bitter and all raw dandelion leaves are somewhat bitter. Pick the older leaves for cooking before the flowers blossom. While these can be cooked plain like mustard greens, you can find delicious recipes online. You may enjoy them sautéed with garlic and onions in olive oil or in a Japanese stir-fry. For a bittersweet taste, add the flowers (only yellow parts) to a salad.

As with the plants you are growing on purpose in your garden, dandelions that grow in rich, moist soil, with the broadest leaves and largest roots, offer the best qualities.

Medicinal Values

Dandelion root is one of the safest and most popular herbal remedies and is widely used as a traditional tonic to strengthen the entire body, especially the liver and gallbladder. However, it shouldn’t be used by anyone with irritable stomach/bowel or with an acute inflammation. Dandelion root acts as a mild diuretic and a mild laxative. While many use the tea for this purpose (in Canada, dandelion root is sold as a diuretic drug and unlike pharmaceuticals diuretics, this doesn’t leach potassium), it’s best to proceed slowly, and again if you’re on a prescription, as with any herb or traditional medicine, check with a physician for contradictions.

Sold in most health food stores, often in a mixture with herbs such as milk thistle, dandelion is widely known as an excellent cleansing tonic for the liver.

Dandelion root’s inulin is a sugar that doesn’t elicit the rapid production of insulin, as refined sugars do. It is known to help with mature-onset diabetes (but may conflict with some diabetes medications) and holistic regime for hypoglycemia (low blood sugar).

The leaf’s white, milky sap reportedly wards of mosquitoes; removes warts, moles, pimples, calluses, and sores; and soothes bee stings and blisters.

The list of ways to use dandelions is actually much longer, but this gives you some ideas of how you can use these persistent perennials weeds/herbs that have caused you so much grief. While you may not want to allow dandelions to grow long enough to allow you to utilize them fully, at least using them in a few of these ways will give you some return on your investment of time in fight them.

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