Dandelions may seem like a nuisance in the yard, but before you mow over the little yellow flowers, pause to consider all the benefits the “weed” can provide.
The dandelion  (Taraxacum officinale) can be used for both natural remedies and as an ingredient in a plethora of recipes.
The “young leaves” of a dandelion, after being blanched, are excellent for use in salad. The leaves of a mature plant often possess a bitter taste. Blanche the dandelion green in the same manner as commonly used for endives. Chopped dandelion roots from a plant less than two-years old are also often used in salads, or washed and eaten alone.
Plant some dandelion seeds in a pot and cover the top with some rough litter, such as pine shavings, and come Spring a multitude of young leave sprouts will be readily available for salads.
Young dandelion leaves can also be boiled in the same manner as spinach, then drained and moistened with butter or soup, and served as a dish. Many folks simply sprinkle salt and pepper on the boiled leaves and munch them for a healthy snack.
It may take several five gallon buckets of dandelions to make a good batch of dandelion wine, but the taste is well worth all the bending over it will take to collect the flowers. Pour a gallon of boiling water over about three pounds of dandelions and cover with a cloth and allow to stand for three days. Pull back the cloth or blanket and stir several times each day. Once the dandelion wine has fermented, strain the water away and boil it for 30 minutes.
Add about three pounds of sugar (loaf sugar is often used) and toss in a sliced lemon, one orange rind, and a little ginger for added taste and health benefits if desired. Once the water has cooled, add a package of yeast (some pour the yeast on a piece of toast to enhance the fermentation process) and allow the mix to sit for two days before placing in a cask. Allow the wine to settle for two months before bottling or drinking. Many dandelion wine fans believe the drink is good for blood health and circulation.
Roast the dried root of a dandelion plant and use for coffee. Roast the roots just slightly until they have a coffee-type tint. Grind the roots into powder and use just like the sometimes expensive ground coffee available in grocery stores. Dandelion coffee is often made as a means to garner the medicinal value from the root. Mixing the coffee with chocolate to enhance the taste is commonplace. The root of the wild plant is believed to have stimulating properties for the entire digestive and nervous system. Dandelion roots may also help improve kidney and liver function and keep the bowels healthy.
Make sure to gather only dandelions that you are sure have not been sprayed with a chemical herbicide; you only need the yellow flower for this recipe. The bread has a moist spongy texture and is very sweet.
- Approximately 2 cups of dandelion petals
- 4 cups of flour
- 1 teaspoon of salt
- 4 teaspoons of baking powder
- 3/4 cup of honey
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 cup of vegetable oil
- 2 2/3 cups of milk
Pull away and discard any greens from the yellow petals. Wash the flower thoroughly; using a strainer is advised. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Combine all of the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl and stir to combine.
Mix the beaten eggs, honey, vegetable oil and milk in a separate bowl.
Grease two baking pans and pour the dandelion bread mix inside.
Bake for 20 to 25 minutes. Turn the oven down to 350 degrees and bake for another 20 minutes.
Rabbits, tortoises, pigs, small birds and goats routinely dine on the plant, but horses and cows do not typically care for the bitter juice which exudes from dandelions. Some farmers claim that if you can get a dairy cow to munch on dandelions, milk output increases.
Dandelion root , both fresh and dried, and the young leaves and top of the plant are have been used for medicinal purposes for centuries. Many believe that the juice in the root is the most beneficial part of the wild plant.
Some of the medical issues that dandelion petals, roots and young leaves are used to treat include gallstones, intestinal gas, loss of appetite, muscle aches, stomach aches, eczema, viral infections, cancer, bruises and joint pain. Dandelions contains particles which may decrease inflammation and increase urine production, according to WebMD.
A University of Maryland Medical Center study said that dandelions are full of vitamins A, B, C and D. The wild plant also contains significant amounts of zinc, potassium and iron. Native Americans routinely boiled dandelion root and drank the “tea” to treat kidney issues, various types of swelling, heartburn and upset stomach. Chinese medicine recipes also included dandelion teas to aid breast milk flow issues, stomach aches and appendicitis.
Most dandelion medicinal use studies have been conducted on animals and not humans. The wild plant has often been studied for its diuretic uses — increasing the amount of urine produced in order to rid the body of too much fluid, to decrease blood pressure and cleanse the liver. The root of the dandelion plant is also believed to possess mild laxative properties.
During lab tests on mice, ingesting dandelion has helped to “normalize” blood sugar levels and lower cholesterol levels and increase HDL or good cholesterol levels in diabetic mice. All animal studies about a possible natural diabetic treatment have proved successful, prompting researchers to study the issue further before entering into human trials.
How do you use dandelions? Let us know in the comments section below.