Could a food chain that whispers of global vulnerability make me reconsider the value of my yard as part of my personal supply chain? I cultivate weeds better than anything. My yard is a festival of dandelions.
There is nothing to be gained by declaring war on this. But everything to be gained by researching all the medicinal and nutritional benefits of dandelion and declaring it my most successful garden crop ever. So, with a nudge of encouragement from Natalie Rousseau, whose plant ally for early spring in her 13 Moons course was dandelion, I cooked up a dandelion saute, as the evening’s serve of greens.
It tasted… so… weedy.
The seven year old sniffed and said, “No.” Husband’s verdict: “not for the permanent recipe collection.”
I went to instagram to announce this state of affairs.
And was encouraged by friends not to give up.
So I did some more research. They are SO GOOD FOR YOU. My coffee-to-wine IV line slash coping technique has short term effectiveness, (upping and downing me as required), but I’m not in love with the long term consequences (like looking haggard. I embrace witchiness but I’m not ready to be a hag just yet.) The promise of clear skin alone convinced me to keep trying – if not to disguise or balance the taste of dandelion, then to acquire.
Two weeks into my experiments with dandelion (and with even more available in my yard, yay abundance!) it’s some combination of all of the above.
Susun Weed has taught that information in wild food is healing to our cells, it nourishes them with fewer glitches, it returns us to a state of health that aligns with an older Earth, because the receptor sites for minerals in our cells, are primed for the nutrients found in wild food.
the optimum nutrition is the nutrition from the wild plants. ~ susun weed
Dandelion is a member of the Asteraceae (daisy) family, a spring tonic and blood purifier. Dandelion leaves and roots relieve chronic stagnation in the liver, while the flowers can relieve a stagnant depressed spirit.
“It grows almost anywhere: wild in fields, lining trails, in suburban yards, breaking through cracks in city sidewalks. Its constant presence is a reminder of its persistence to live as long as it can under any condition.” ~ Christine Buckley, Plant Magic
It was actually imported to North America as a spring green and boasts the scientific name Taraxacum officinale, meaning the official remedy. Like, for everything.
Its strengths are as a tonic, diuretic, alterative, antirheumatic, bitter, cholagogic, hepatic, exhilarant, mild laxative and nutritive.
Dandelion – Are tap-rooted biennial or perennial herbaceous plants, native to temperate areas of the world. Dandelions are thought to have evolved about thirty million years ago in Eurasia, they have been used by humans as food and herb for much of recorded history. Dandelions are one of the first plants to bloom in the spring and therefore are a very important source of nectar and pollen early in the season. Its tap-root will bring up nutrients for shallower-rooting plants, and add minerals and nitrogen to the soil. Dandelions are even said to emit ethylene gas which helps fruit ripen.
Christine Buckley, in her new (and highly recommended) book Plant Magic includes dandelion in her herbal arsenal – she makes vodka tincture with the flowers and takes that jar of liquid sunshine as deep winter medicine, confessing it is her favourite plant for being “scrappy, fierce, life giving and cheery.”
Buckley recommends to use the roots for sluggish digestion – dandelion will not just kick your digestive system into high gear, it also improves bile production in the liver, so you can digest fats and eliminate toxins from your body with more ease. This will reduce inflammation in the body, make your skin look better, help your metabolism and allow the liver to cleanse the blood.
It’s high in mineral content and inulin, a type of fibre, which is an excellent prebiotic.
The leaves are great spring salads – waking up our systems. It’s a tonic, so that means you can take it, every day, and little by little, you will improve.
“It is the ultimate preventative medicine,” says Buckley. And high in potassium, too.
So long as the leaves are green, they’re edible. They become progressively bitter, so start with tender spring leaves. It also is packed with vitamins A, E, K, b6, B1 and C. Temper the bitterness with other ingredients (like plaintain leaves, garden herbs, seeds, nuts, shaved cheese, dried fruit.)
So, with that data fomenting in my brain, my community of wild advisors offered tips on incorporating this super food into my diet.
Holly Joseph recommends: “The roots are nice and hot right now. Add to a stir fry, they taste so good! Brush them off under the hose. They are long and thin right now. And taste pretty peppery. I just cut it up right from the garden and put it right into my stir fry. Made it kind of spicy!”
Leala Selina Martin said: “I often will juice them as the larger they are the more bitter. They are so good for you though!”
Sarinda Hoilett advised: “It’s all in the balance of flavours. Macadamia nuts (although gift from heaven) are expensive and hard to find…you can substitute cashews or even avocado and try for a creamy citrus blend to balance the bitter 🍃, And mix them with other greens or drop a few in a sweet smoothie.”
Dandelion Cream Salad
20 dandelion leaves, finely chopped, main stem rmoved
1/2 cup macadamia nuts
1/4 cup diced red bell pepper
1/4 cup coconut water
3 tbs lemon juice
1 tsp Celtic salt
Massage chopped dandelion leaves well with salt to break down the fibre. Let sit for at least 5 minutes. Blend nuts with coconut water and lemon to cream. Mix well to coat dandelions with cream and add red bell pepper. This salad is a wonderful way to get the great nutrition of dandelion with a reduction of the bitterness.
After great success with Natalie’s dandelion cordial, making Christine Buckley’s winter rescue tincture (as I call it the “dandy brandy”) is next on my list.
1 ½ cups dandelion flower blossoms
1 cup honey
1 cup brandy
Put the flowers in a glass pint jar. Dissolve the honey in the brandy by stirring or whisking vigorously together. Pour the brandy and honey over the flowers, label and store in a cool dark place for 6 weeks. Bottle your tincture but don’t hide it away so well that you forget about it by winter.
Pemberton-based clinical herbalist, Evelyn Coggins,advised, after reading this post: “I love to hear this topic of wild medicine/wild food being shared as miraculous, magical news… because it is all that. A weed is just a plant that hasn’t learned to grow in rows. The bitter principal of dandelion is tricky. We like sweet, salty and to some degree sour but bitter rarely. Maybe we are cautious because the toxic constituents in plants are most often present as alkaloids and alkaloids are bitter. It must have been a real learning curve to distinguish between toxic and beneficial bitters. The beneficial bitters aid digestion and many traditional aperitifs employ plant based bitters. Gin and tonic is a good example. Gin is prepared from juniper berries and they are bitter. Bitters act on the bitter receptors on the tongue and start a chain reaction that leads to the increased flow of bile into the digestive tract and all the nutritional value that ensues from there. It is not surprising that the liver leaps into action with bitters since poisons must be metabolized and hopefully rendered harmless by this organ. I agree that one must start slowly when turning to bitter plants but the journey is so worth it.”
I’ve been a client of Evelyn’s and can’t recommend her highly enough.
Now, more than ever, is a time to treat nature as an ally, not a servant/slave, and to behave with honour, humility, curiousity and gratitude.
Just because you use the derisive word weed doesn’t mean this plant has no value.
Finally, leave some for the pollinators. They matter in this lovely web, perhaps more than anyone. Not to mention, the roots reach deep into the soil to bring up nutrients, so they’re working healing magic on the Earth, not just our bodies.
Thanks to Tanina Williams, who first introduced me to the idea of making dandelion jelly, for sharing this video: