Monday, April 18, 2011

Dandelions - Not just a Weed!

Everywhere you look in the springtime you see dandelions.  They are growing in fields, yards, along roadsides, even in the cracks of the concrete.  Most people see them as nothing more than a pesky weed.  They spray them with chemicals and poisons hoping to get rid of this persnickety weed.  I have to wonder what those people would think of me, a grown women, crawling around on my hands and knees, picking the greens, the flowers and digging up the roots.

My very first memory of dandelions was a summer long ago when 2 little girls picked what seemed to be hundreds of dandelions and dissected them into different pieces.  Each piece was a different candy in our make believe candy store.  The stems were pixie sticks, the flowers where lemon drops, the flower left on the stem was a lollipop....what fun we had that summer.

I didn't think much more about dandelions in the years to follow...until last year.  I love to research things that interest me and somewhere I heard this strange thing...dandelions are edible.  So I researched.  I googled,  I checked out library books, I asked friends who knew about simple living and herbs.  The more I found out, the more intrigued I became.  These beautiful yellow spring flowers were so much more than edible, they were also medicinal.  They are nutritious and hold so many healing properties.  And to think we refer to them as a weed.

So here is what I have found out about the dandelion:

It's official name is Taraxacum officinale which means "the official remedy for disorders"

Let's start with the leaves also referred to as dandelion greens.  The leaves are the most widely used.  They are full of so many wonderful nutrients.  They are a good source of calcium, potassium, vitamin A, and vitamin C. They have twice as much vitamin A in a one-cup serving than most vitamin pills. They also have as much calcium as a half a glass of milk. That’s more than most other vegetables.  It improves your immune system and is even said to help prevent cancer.  It's a good to use as a detox and strengthens and purifies your blood and it is also good for regulating blood sugar levels.  You can boil the leaves as you would spinach, you can eat them raw like lettuce, just toss some leaves in with your next salad, or you could make a tea.  When harvesting leaves, the best time is before the plant blooms.  Just when the bloom bud appears, and before the stalk grows.  If you wait too long they will taste bitter.  Still edible but not very tasty.  I have read that you can add a pinch a baking soda and it will help with the bitterness in teas but I have never tried this.  You also want to harvest in the heat of the day so all the dew is evaporated off the plant.

Now let's talk about the stem.  The pure latex (the milky juice) inside the stem can be applied to warts or even infected wounds.  Repeat the applications until gone and healed.  Use a fresh stem with each application.

Onto the roots.  The best time to harvest them is in the spring and fall.  Of course you want to clean them good.  I soak mine overnight in water and then scrub them with a brush (a toothbrush works great).  You can boil them and eat it like a vegetable, grated in a salad, or even steamed.  You can roast them in the oven on a cookie sheet at 250 degrees for about 2 hours, grind them, and make coffee.  It is a good diuretic, it aids digestion, removes toxins from your system making it great for your liver, kidneys and gall bladder, plus its full of vitamins and nutrients.

Last but not least...the flower.  The flower is edible too!  Fried, it is considered a delicacy.  The young unopened flowers are high in protein, are tender and can add an extra crunch to your salad.  You can even make dandelion jelly.

Here are a few things I have done with dandelions this spring:

Dandelion Vinegar

1. Pick a jar full of dandelion blossoms. Can also add greens and roots (make sure they are clean)
2. Cover with apple cider vinegar.
3. Place in a sunny location to steep.
4. Shake good every day.
5. After two weeks strain with a cheesecloth or muslim fabric
6. Store in the refrigerator.
Can be used on salads!


Dandelion Infused Oil

1. Pick a jar full of dandelion blossoms.
2. Pour olive oil (can also use almond oil or canola oil) over the blossoms until they are fully covered. 
3.  Poke around with a wooden spoon handle to make sure there are no air bubbles. 
4.  Cover with a coffee filter held on by a rubber band.
5.  Place in a sunny location (a windowsill works well) to steep for 2 weeks. (I sat the jar outside on warm afternoons) After one week, strain the mixture, throw out the brown dandelions, and add fresh ones. Cover with your coffee filter and return to sunny location for another week of steeping. I also stirred them once a day.
6.  After 2 weeks strain using a cheese cloth or muslim fabric. I strained it twice to make sure there were no unwanted particles.
Dandelion Salve
Use the above method for dandelion infused oil.  Add grated beeswax to the oil and melt it.  Add enough to reach your desired consistency.  To test the consistency drip a drop of mixture on a plate.  It will cool immediatley and you can see how thick it is. 
I personally like the salve better than the oil.  Oil seems more messy to me.  Due to dandelions pain relieving properties the salve and the oil can be used for achy or sore muscles.   Just apply to the area.  It can be used to relieve sinus headaches.  Rub a little on your forhead.  Great for arthritis.  Can also be used for dry patches and other skin conditions.

Next time you look out in your yard and see dandelions taking over maybe you should consider eating away your weed problem. :):)

**Be sure when you harvest dandelions that you are not harvesting plants that have been sprayed or treated with any kind of chemical**


  1. This is so cool! I absolutely adore dandelions. Today on my walk I saw some!
    That last remedy thing...can it be used for chapstick?
    I love this post!

  2. I am so glad you enjoyed the post and that someone else finds dandelions as interesting as I do. ;) I checked into it and you can definetly use the salve as a lip balm. I'm so glad you mentioned it. I'm going to use it for that as well now!

  3. I have made the salve and the oil ....I will try the the vinegar when the winter weather goes away .....Tonight it will be down to 33 or so .....How are the bunnies ?