Teaching Tuesday- Dandelions

While most people spray their lawns and try to kill the yellow "weeds" that pop up every Spring, otherwise called Dandelions (botanically known as Taraxacum officinale), most of our Grandparents, if not parents, use to gather these "weeds" for food and medicine.

Over the years, much has been written about the dandelion and its uses, and I encourage you to check into it further. While the dandelion is now considered a common weed, one that disgraces lawns everywhere, it didn't start out that way. The dandelion plant is not native. It was purposefully brought to North America by the Europeans. They brought the dandelion, chose the dandelion, because they considered it to be a valuable resource. In fact, this plant helped to keep our ancestors alive.

While we may have forgotten about this plant, it is wondrous one. In fact, every part of the dandelion can be used as food or medicine. When the first Spring leaves pop up out of the ground, dandelions can be easily harvested and eaten fresh in salads, made into a pesto, or even dried for tea. Their leaves are highly nutritious, containing large amounts of vitamin A, calcium, potassium, and several other vitamins and minerals. While long-term use of dandelion is needed for the best results, the leaves do possess diuretic properties, which makes it an inappropriate choice for anyone with low blood pressure, excessive urination, or kidney impairment. But most people tolerate dandelions just fine. 

My Mother told me about gathering dandelions when she was young. They used to have them fresh, in salads, and cooked with other "greens" as a side dish. They also made poultices with dandelions, but she was too young to remember the details of making one. One use that I recently read about, but had never heard about before, is dandelion coffee. Of course you can make a dandelion tea just by drying the dandelions and then heating them in water, but making the coffee takes a bit more. Here are the directions that I found in the Healing Herbs book, written by Rosalee de la Foret. 

Dandelion Coffee
• Prior to decocting the dandelion root, roast the dried chopped root in a
cast iron pan until it is fragrant and has changed color from being offwhite
to light and dark brown.
• For each 8 oz of water you are making, use 1-2 teaspoons of the
roasted root.
• Add the root to simmering water and continue to simmer while covered
for 7–15 minutes. The resulting brew will be darkly colored.

You can add milk to it, as the author of the book does, or you can add honey to sweeten it, and take the edge off.

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