Dandelion -- Taraxacum officinale
When we were little, we'd collect dandelion "bouquets" to give to our mothers and teachers, then we'd make a wish and blow the fluff off of those that had gone to seed. As we got older, we were sent out into the yard to dig up the dandelions -- sadly, not for food, but because they were weeds. As I look back, I think what a shame it is that we think of this valuable plant as a pest! Our ancestors knew the nutritive and medicinal value of the Dandelion plant (many around the world still know it today). Let's share that knowledge.
Almost every part of the Dandelion is edible -- the roots, the leaves, and the flowers! The roots are high in inulin (a prebiotic) which can help with digestion. They also support the liver and liver function, which, in turn, may help balance hormones for women. Scientists believe that taraxasterol in the roots is responsible for its anti-inflammatory properties. There are ongoing studies to determine if Dandelion root may help cancer patients. In vitro studies show promise, but human studies still need to be conducted.
Dandelion leaves, when picked in spring (from young plants) make a great addition to salad. They contain vitamins A, B, C, D, and K1 (phylloquinone), beta-carotene, magnesium, potassium, beta-sitosterol, flavonoids, and inulin. Later in the season, the leaves turn bitter and are best dried and used in other preparations like tea. The leaves are good for digestion as prebiotics. Their diuretic property can help with ridding the body of excess fluid, thus functioning as an anti-inflammatory and promoting detoxification of the liver and tonifying the blood.
The flowers are often used in making tasty wines and jams. They are high in polyphenols and antioxidants. As a result, they may play a role in preventing degenerative diseases like Alzheimer's, hardening of the arteries, arthritis, cancer, and diabetes.
So, if your yard is full of dandelions and hasn't been exposed to harsh herbicides and pesticides, let the Dandelions grow! It's free food!
(Note: If your yard has been exposed to harsh chemicals, find out how long it will take for the soil to be free of those chemicals. Please, do not use Dandelions (or any edible plants) that were grown in soil with a toxic chemical content.
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The information contained in this blog is for educational purposes only and has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.