|Posted on 27 December, 2018 at 18:50|
For some time now, I’ve been on a quest to advocate for the humble, nutrition packed dandelion or wet-the-bed, as it is commonly known in Australia.
In this quest I have discovered that there is around 140 varieties of this pretty, sunshine filled, smiling, happy plant that we disregard as a weed, is in fact one of the most versatile, prehistoric plants on the planet.
It is one of the first wildflowers of spring and therefore plays a major part in pollination and feeding of bees, birds, butterflies and moths. The nectar is a vital food source for the earliest spring butterflies. Bees collect the pollen and nectar to take back to the hive to feed the queen and start the honey making process after winter. The flowers are an important food source for the larvae of some moths and the seeds are an important food source for birds.
Dandelions also play a vital part in garden beds – it’s a fantastic companion plant for shallow rooting vegetables, as the tap root draws up vital nutrients through the soil also adding minerals and nitrogen to the soil.
The entire plant can be used for various things from medicinal to nutritional purposes. Read below for what this little powerhouse can do:
• Packed full of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, the dandelion greens have the highest Vitamin A content of any plant on the planet. They also contain Vit. C, K & E, Potassium for heart health, Calcium, manganese, Iron, magnesium, niacin, folic acid, riboflavin and pyridoxine.
The greens contain (% of recommended daily Allowance):
Vit C = 58%
Vit K* = 649%
Vit A = 338%
Vit B6 (pyridoxine) = 19%
Dietary Fiber = 9%
Riboflavin = 20%
Iron = 39% &
Calcium = 19%
*(Vitamin K helps limit neuronal damage in the brain of Alzheimer’s patients)
• The leaves and buds have been utilised for centuries in many cultural cuisines including ~ Kashmiri, Albanian, Slovenian, Sephardic, Chinese, Greek, Italian and Korean. They can be blanched, sautéed, stir fried or eaten raw (young greens).
• Medicinally the leaves are used as a diuretic, blood, kidney and liver detoxifier, can heal other digestive disorders and protect from lung and oral cavity cancers.
• The raw flowers contain high levels of polyphenols and antioxidants (great for youthful glowing skin). They are also anti-inflammatory and anti-angiogenic (reduces the growth of new blood vessels needed by tumours to grow and metastasize)
• The petals are already an ingredient in Root Beer and can be used in salads and sandwiches (the Victorian Gentry considered them a delicacy).
• The petals can be cooked into a honey-like syrup and stored in the refrigerator for about 12-14 days.
• Can also be used as a natural cloth dye.
• The seeds are edible however they have a rather unpleasant texture and are tasteless on their own. They can be added to spice mixes for their nutritional value.
• No doubt we have all heard of dandelion tea and its benefits, but did you also know that the root can be dried, roasted and ground to make a caffeine free alternative to coffee.
• The fresh root can also be used as a tea, a slightly more earthy flavour than the dried root.
• Fresh or dried the root can be added to winter stews, soups and smoothies. If using in a smoothie, I’d suggest crushing it into a paste in a mortar & pestle before adding with other ingredients.
• The sap is a natural latex compound that can be used as an open wound sealer, not recommended for sensitive skin unless it’s a dire emergency.
• It is a powerful anti-bacterial compound as well.
SUMMARY OF MEDICINAL USES
Apart from the latex, dandelion contains a number of pharmacologically active compounds. Used as a herbal remedy in Europe, North America and China to treat infections, bile and liver problems and is also used as a diuretic. Used for thousands of years to treat inflammation, swollen lymph nodes, cysts and abscesses, as well as detoxifying the kidney and liver.
DANDELION SYRUP RECIPE (Source: Nature's Nurture)
Ingredients: Approx 130 dandelion flower heads
3 cups water
2 cups sugar (of choice)
Piece of muslin cloth
- Pick flower heads and rinse under cold running water immedisately to remove any bugs or larvae.
- Place flower heads face down on paper towel and let dry.
- Cut petals from stamens, leaving as much green stamen behind as possible. At this pint, you can freeze the petals in an air tight, lidded container for future use or until you have enough to make a batch of syrup.
- Place petals in a pot and cover with the water, bring to rapid boil for approx. 1 minute, remove from heat and allow to cool overnight (can be placed in the refrigerator or left in a cool placed on the bench)
- Next morning, strain the petals into a clean pot, using the muslin to squeeze as much liquid as possible into the pot. Discard petals.
- Add sugar to dandelion water and bring to a slow simmer, stirring to dissolve sugar crystals ( I used raw sugar and added a little extra because I like it a bit thicker)
- Simmer for 1 1/2 - 2 hours, test for consistancy by dipping a teaspoon into the syrup and then cold water.
- Take off heat, and allow to cool.
- Pour into sterilised jar and seal, and place in the refrigerator. Syrup will keep for 12-14 days.
So next time you go to poison the poor old dandelion or even mow it over, spare a thought for the vital food, nutritional, medicinal source you are eradicating.
I personally have a little glass ball pendant with 3 seeds inside & I know that with those 3 seeds – I will never be without nutrition, medicine or a food supply
• Dandelion pollen may cause allergic reaction when eaten fresh.
• The latex from the stem may cause rash or other adverse skin irritations in sensitive individuals.
• Due to its high potassium level, dandelion may also increase the risk of hyperkalaemia when taken with other potassium-sparing diuretics (If you are on this type of medication,please check with your doctor before consumption).