6 Savvy Medicinal & Culinary Ways to Use This Amazing Weed
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There are fewer weeds more reviled – and tougher – than dandelions. These valiant little survivors can make it through just about anything – drought, heat, picking, mowing, pulling, spraying with chemicals, etc. – and – fun fact: they can be found on every continent except for Antarctica!
Commonly known as a “weed” that is the bane of many a suburban homeowner’s existence, dandelions are actually a highly useful plant. In fact, there are dozens of healthy and tasty ways to use dandelions both medicinally and in the kitchen. Every part of the dandelion plant is edible, either raw or cooked. According to The Grow Network, “Dandelions are rich in potassium; magnesium; manganese; phosphorus; sodium; copper; choline; calcium; iron; lecithin; biotin; inositol; chlorophyll; fiber; and vitamins A, B1, B2, B5, B6, B9, B12, C, D, and E.” They contain more vitamin A than any other green plant, and when eaten as a whole (roots, leaves, and flowers), they make up a complete protein containing all 9 essential amino acids. It should come as no surprise that dandelions have been used medicinally for centuries!
If you want to forage for dandelions for eating or making your own home remedies, below are a few tips and ideas for how to use them.
With their sunny yellow heads and fluffy seeds that drift everywhere with the slightest breeze, it’s easy to identify dandelions cropping up in fields, lawns, gardens, and along the roadside. (Fortunately, even if you do misidentify them, none of the plants that may appear similar are toxic.) See this article for a few tips on identifying dandelions correctly.
Unfortunately, one of the reasons dandelions have probably survived so well for so long is that, well, they taste terrible! Many parts of the plant are extremely bitter – but humans have come up with a few ways to make them more palatable. Here are a few suggestions for eating dandelions:
First, you should select the best dandelions. The best-tasting leaves have had the easiest life. Don’t pick any sunbaked, twice-stepped-on leaves. Harvest from a plant in a shady, well-watered location. Harvest younger greens, earlier in the year. Leaves toward the center of the rosette also tend to be less bitter.
Next, choose the right preparation. It’s the rare individual who enjoys eating a handful of dandelion greens raw. It’s a lot easier to moderate their taste by chopping them up and mixing them with other greens. They also pair well with savory dishes.
Of all the cooking methods, boiling does the best job of reducing bitterness. Drop the leaves into boiling water for 5 to 10 minutes. If you’ve picked a good plant, it shouldn’t take much more than this. If not, you can always boil them longer. Use plenty of water so the bitterness has someplace to go.
Eating the Roots: Stir-fried, Pickled, and as a Coffee Substitute
The root can be eaten raw, but tastes better when cooked. Try them sliced and stir-fried with other veggies. Cooking breaks down the root’s inulin into fructose, bringing out a much sweeter taste. They’re also a fine addition to soups and stews, and—although I’ve never tried it—they are reportedly quite tasty when pickled.
Dandelion Coffee Recipe
The root is typically harvested from late fall to early spring. Second-year roots are preferred, but good luck on guessing how old a dandelion is by looking at it. If it’s too old and woody to eat, you can still use it to make a caffeine-free coffee substitute. Slice up the root and slow-roast it in your oven until it turns dark brown and becomes brittle. This should take about 30 minutes at 350°F (175°C). Let it cool, and then grind it up to use like coffee grounds. I’m usually not a fan of coffee substitutes, but this is one I really enjoy.
Eating the Flowers: Sautéed, Fried, and Infused
The flowers make a colorful addition to salads, soups, ice creams, or just about anything else. Two of my favorite ways to eat them are sautéed in butter and as an ingredient in dandelion lemonade.
- Sautéed blooms are easy. Just melt some butter and sauté away. (Alternately, you could make a simple egg-and-flour batter and fry them. Yum!)
- To make dandelion lemonade, just add about a quart of dandelion flowers to a half gallon of lemonade. Let the mixture infuse in the fridge overnight, then strain out the blossoms and enjoy.
To take advantage of the medicinal properties of dandelions, here are a few ideas to try:
As a Digestive Aid
Dandelion’s bitter taste is likely also its best-known medicinal property. It’s a bitter. Bitters are plants that encourage optimal digestion by stimulating the secretion of enzymes and digestive juices.12),13)
Dandelion stimulates appetite, aids the liver in its detoxification duties, helps to regulate the release of pancreatic hormone, is stimulating to the spleen, supports correct bile duct function, and even helps to repair the gut wall.14),15),16) It may even help to resist the progression of cirrhosis of the liver.17)
To Treat Colitis
In one experiment, participants with non-specific colitis were given dandelion along with calendula, lemon balm, and St. John’s wort. Complete relief from spontaneous and palpable pains was reported by 96% of participants, and stools were normalized in those with diarrhea symptoms.18)
For Skin Health
The natural latex in its sap is helpful in getting rid of warts.27) However, this is not a quick process. The sap must be applied several times a day for 2 to 3 weeks. Direct application of the sap can also help with moles, pimples, canker sores, and other skin blemishes.28), 29)
To Fight Cancer and Harmful Bacteria
Dandelion may have anti-tumor/anti-cancer properties, though it is not clear whether this would be from a direct action or indirectly through its ability to cleanse and support normal body function.30),31) Dandelion also appears to have selective antimicrobial properties, supporting healthy gut bacteria while discouraging unhealthy ones.32),33),34) It even helps prevent plaque buildup on teeth.35)
For tips on preparation and dosages, see the full article at TheGrowNetwork.com…