Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Dandelion - A Different Approach

I chose this title simply because most of us see the dandelion as a noxious weed. When you think beyond and read more about the dandelion, you'll find that this non-cultivated herb is very valuable and appreciated in a herbalist's world. Not only the dandelion, but many other herbs which are considered "weeds" have their utilitarian value in our everyday lives.

Let's take a look at the dandelion and its parts which are usable either for its medicinal or culinary properties. Fresh, dried, tinctures, powder, tea are the most common forms of dandelion on the market.

Dandelion roots grow vertically deep and are known as tap roots. To dig them out, you will need a shovel. Otherwise, they will break off. The best time to harvest the roots is early spring or late autumn because their nutrients are at their maximum. Dandelion roots are widely used and one of the most popular herbal remedies on the market today. The roots of the dandelion can be used to make a tonic for strengthening the entire body. This tonic is used to aid liver and gallbladder functions, to help digestion, stimulate the appetite...just to mention a few.

Have you heard of dandelion root coffee? It is a caffeine free substitute for coffee. Once pulled out from the ground, roots have to be washed thoroughly, chopped in a blender into smaller pieces and then slowly roasted in the oven for couple of hours. Roasted roots can be ground or used as they are for coffee or chai.

Leaves are packed with A, C, D and B-complex vitamins and minerals (iron, copper, calcium potassium, zinc). The content of iron is higher than in spinach. You can steam or stir fry the leaves, but because of their high nutritional value consider using them fresh. Eating fresh leaves in salads or sandwiches can be very beneficial for our bodies. Dandelion leaves are at their best just as they emerge from the ground. When you harvest the dandelion leaves will determine their bitterness. Their bitterness is an appealing bitterness, similar to endive lettuce. Like roots, dandelion leaves are used to treat liver problems. As a natural diuretic, dandelion leaves help cleanse kidneys by stimulating urine production and excretion of salts and water. It can help in treating anemia, boils, and breast cancer.

Flower heads are useful too. Did you know that some people use them to make wine? For wine making the flower petals are best picked during April and May in the Northern hemisphere. I have not had a chance to taste dandelion wine yet, but I've heard it is a light wine and it lacks body. To improve the body of this type of wine, people add raisins, figs, apricots. The color of the wine will depend on which one of these additives is used.

So, the next time you come across the dandelion, perhaps you will change your perception of this useful noxious weed. Even if you don't intend to use any part of this herb, at least be aware of its utilitarian value.

Jaime Wade is a passionate and dedicated herb gardening enthusiast whose burning desire is to encourage each and every one to experience the joys and rewards of starting their own herb gardens.

No comments: