Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)

If you can’t beat ’em, eat ’em!

Dandelion is one of the most valuable wild herbs available to an herbalist, or it is to me, anyway. I wish I had a quarter for every time I’ve recommended it. Almost every part is useful; root (fresh and dried), leaves, flowers and juice!

Dandelion is useful for treating anemia, arteriosclerosis, arthritis, breast problems, bronchitis, bruises, circulatory problems, constipation, diabetes, eczema, fevers, gout, heartburn, hypoglycemia, indigestion, kidney complaints, premenstrual fluid retention, psoriasis, sluggish digestion, skin problems, stiff, joints, and much more! The milky stem juice is even useful against warts, pimples, sores and blisters. Preparations for use are usually leaf infusion, root decoction, fluid extract, or tincture.

With the current popularity of bitter salad herbs such as endive and chicory these days, most people won’t cringe in horror because of something a little odd in their salad bowl, and they might not even notice a few little dandelion leaves. For those who would like to make the plunge, follow these tips:

**Gather the leaves when young, before they have flowered in the spring.
**Be sure to collect from a spray-free area, away from the road, or in your own (preferably organic!) garden.
**After flowering, you can cut the plant back to the top of the roots, and then harvest the new growth.
**Harvest or grow dandelions in the shade for the least bitter flavor.
**You can plant dandelions too: you don’t need to rely on the wild ones!

Be aware that some other plants look like Dandelion. You can identify a Dandelion by its stem, which is hollow and smooth, and exudes a milky bitter juice when crushed. The leaves are hairless and have serrated edges. Dandelion usually bears a single flower, which is bright yellow and made up of many narrow petals. The flowers close up at night and in rainy weather. Use the young leaves, as the older leaves are bitter.

Dandelions distinctive taste goes great in sandwiches, with vinaigrette dressings, with meats, cheeses, pasta, and in tomato sauces.

Here in the south we gather dandelion roots from October to late spring, beginnging after the first frost when the plant dies back and sends it’s nutrients below ground to store for next season. Be sure to collect in a spray free environment, away from roads!

To make your own dandelion coffee, wash the roots well, slice lengthwise in half, and then air dry for several days. Cut into one-inch sections, and roast on a baking sheet at 375 degrees for 2 to 4 hours. Turn them regularly so that they brown evenly. There should be a coffee-like odor coming from the oven by the time they are done. Grind as needed, and use in place of coffee beans! You can also grate the raw roots into salads, or stir-fry.

Why don’t you go dig up some sunny dandelions and enjoy them today?

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