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Home food preservation & renewal: the dandelion

Yes we most certainly do canning and freezing of all shorts of food and store them in a cold room or freezer, trying to keep it a routine; even homemade soup, stew etc.  In fact, that is just another one of our seasonal routines; it makes sense.  Trying to use common sense on a daily basis should be everyone’s common goal.

Of course there are always new and better ways in preservation and trying to reduce by reusing the waist that comes from the things we grow and harvest or even buy from the store. Such as, one can grow a beautiful flower garden with a vast variety in annuals or perennials, but if one thinks for a minute and learns what things they could grow that are edible and beneficial, or even useful in providing craft-like materials for the farmer’s market or the local craft store for an example, they’ve opened a new world of possibilities making a domino effect, linking knowledgeable branches of both old and new.

Home Food Preservation & Renewal – True Facts – Part 1 – The Dandelion

Take the Dandelion for an example, keeping in mind that a weed is only a plant that is not wanted.  The Dandelion is as we all know, a perennial, a herbaceous plant with long, lance-shaped leaves and deeply toothed; it’s name was derived in Old French: Dent-de-lion, meaning, “Lion’s Tooth”.  

Each flower head consists of hundreds of tiny ray flowers, unlike others; there are no disk flowers.  Most gardeners detest them, but the more you try to weed them, the faster they grow…almost as if they’re a jack-in-the-box and keep popping up to surprise you after each pluck.  The taproot is deep, twisted and brittle, but unless you remove it completely, it will regenerate.  By breaking off more pieces but failing to completely remove it, the Dandelion wins.

Here’s an old Dandelion joke: “What’s a Dandelion digger for?” asks the Dandelion.  “It’s a human invention to help us reproduce,” replies another.

Are Dandelions really a nasty weed?  No, that is simply not true.  The Dandelion is actually very useful believe it or not and it is as we all know, very easy to grow every year.  Not everyone knows that Dandelions are edible and very healthy to eat.  Do keep in mind however, that there are similar plants that look like the authentic Dandelion, so please do your research before you decide to eat anything that grows on the ground, on a shrub or in a tree.  

Luckily, there are no poisonous look-a-likes.  Other look-a-likes are the Taraxacum, Chicory, and Wild Lettuce, all are edible as well, each too exuding a white milky sap when injured, but the Chicory and Wild Lettuce leaves have some hair, at least on the underside of the midrib, while the Taraxacum leaves are bald.  

But unlike the other look-a-likes, the Taraxacum stays in a basal rosette, never growing into a tall, central stalk bearing flowers and leaves.  Unlike most other seeds, Dandelion seeds can germinate without long periods of dormancy.  To further increase reproductive efficiency, the seeds can develop without cross-fertilization, so a flower can fertilize itself, allowing it the opportunity to disperse its’ seeds as early as the day after the flower opens.

So where did the Dandelion come from and why is it so hard to “get rid of”?  Dandelions love to grow where much human care exists, well adapted in disturbed habitats such as lawns, walkways and gardens, anywhere that is in a sunny and open location.  Believe it or not, they were even introduced into the Midwest from Europe to provide food for the imported honeybees in early spring.


Dandelions now grow virtually worldwide, they spread further, grow under more adverse circumstances than most competitors, actually adapting to their conditions, even building an immunity to the chemicals that we spray in the attempt to eliminate them…making the Dandelion one of the most difficult to exterminate.

So with that being said as an eye popper, instead of the vigorous attempt in “weeding” this rather delightful little plant by plucking them, spraying them and trying everything to get rid of them simply because they spread and some smart guy started a rumor or trend that Dandelions are weeds and need to be rid of, let us further investigate why this little yellow flowered “weed” is beneficial for many reasons.  

Dandelions are a very favorable food source for Honey Bees.  So just think for a minute, for one of the true and easy available nectar sources for Bees to make our Honey, and as we know man cannot make honey, we are destroying a simple, cheap and what was an extremely large supply of Dandelions that could have been used for so much, every year.  Also, the Dandelion stem is a good source of insulin, brilliantly used in some small cultures for medicine uses. 

The leaves are more nutritious than anything you can buy.  They’re higher in beta-carotene than carrots, more potassium than bananas, more lecithin than soybeans, and the iron and calcium is phenomenal, greater than spinach.  You also get vitamins B1, B2, B5, B6, B12, C, E, P, A, and D.  It also contains biotin, inositol, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, and zinc, loads of thiamin and riboflavin …Hey it’s a free vegetable that anyone could survive on, so why aren’t we taking advantage?!  The root contains the sugar insulin plus many other medicinal substances.  

Dandelion root

The Dandelion root is one of the safest and most popular herbal remedies.  All these nutrients, even without the other substances contained in dandelions, are enough to explain the reputation they have as a liver tonic, blood purifier, anemia arrester, vision improver, reducer of cholesterol and blood pressure levels, and a host of other things. Its scientific name, Taraxacum officinal, translated from Latin, means “official remedy for disorders.”  The specific name, officinal, means that it’s used medicinally.

The decoction is a traditional tonic.  It’s supposed to strengthen the entire body, especially the liver and gull blander, where it promotes the flow of bile, reduces inflammation of the bile duct, and helps get rid of gall stones.  This is due to its taraxacin. Also good for chronic hepatitis, reduces liver swelling and jaundice, plus helps indigestion caused by insufficient bile.  Don’t use it with irritable stomach or bowel, or if you have an acute inflammation.  

Dandelions are also good for the bladder, spleen, pancreas, stomach and intestines.  It’s recommended for stressed-out, internally sluggish and sedentary people.  Anyone who’s a victim of excessive fat, white flour, or concentrated sweeteners could benefit from a daily cup of dandelion tea.  The modern French name for this plant is Pissenlit (Lite means Bed) because the root and leaf tea act on the kidneys as a gentle diuretic, improving the way they cleanse the blood and recycle nutrients.  Unlike pharmaceutical diuretics, this doesn’t leach potassium, a vital mineral from the body.  

Improved general health and clear skin result from improved kidney function.  There was one story that was said about a man claimed he avoided surgery for urinary stones by using Dandelion Root Tea alone.  The Dandelion root’s insulin is a sugar that doesn’t elicit the rapid production of insulin, as refined sugars do.  It helps mature onset diabetes, and has been used as part of a holistic regime for hypoglycemia (low blood sugar).  The leaves white, milky sap removes warts, moles, pimples, calluses, sores, blisters and can even soothe bee stings.  Amazing!

As a plant food

It has been quoted that “The Dandelion is one of the most complete plant foods on Earth.” This statement made by the prominent Herbalist Gregory Tilford.  He continues by saying, “All the vital nutrients are conveniently contained in a single source, in quantities that the body can easily process and fully absorb”.  The greens of the Dandelion can also be referred to as a vegetable. 

We all know that there is a considerable interest in the role of trace minerals in keeping us healthy and several multilevel-multibillion dollar companies have been going all out to convince you to cough up anywhere from $18 to $30 to buy bottles of colloidal trace minerals.  

The concept is sound, as those minerals are extremely crucial, but most foods lack this necessary mineral.  Found in the adequate concentrations, the entire necessary mineral traces, plus the colloidal traces that our bodies require, conveniently are easily available in our fully nutritious and available Dandelion.    

The trace minerals are just part of a package of some 64 nutrients and health-promoting substances which have been found in dandelions by Plant Chemists around the world!  Packed with the nutritious necessities of life, including other biologically active substances that help our body break down the vitamins and minerals effectively in our bodies that we require everyday. 

So you have to ask yourselves, what are the pharmaceuticals and drug companies really in for?  The money by the sounds of it, and yet the general public hasn’t the slightest clue that the most prominent and fast growing “weed” is one of our most necessary and healthy choices for life, minus the dangerous drugs and side effects.

In my own personal and very strong opinion, this “Dandelion being a weed” theory has got to GO! 

So when is the best time to pick a Dandelion?  Collect Dandelion leaves in early spring, as this is when they are the tastiest, before the flowers appear.  Harvest again in late fall.  After a frost, their protective bitterness disappears.  Dandelions love to grow in rich, moist soil, growing the broadest leaves and the largest roots, making them at their best.  

Select the youngest individuals, avoiding all plants with flowers.  Some people eat the greens from spring to fall, when they’re very bitter.  Others boil out the summer bitterness (+ water-soluble vitamins) out in two changes of water.  It’s all a matter of preference.  You can pick them all throughout the warm months if you don’t completely uproot them.  Also, if you keep the “floating seeds” and plant them in an indoor pot, you can enjoy them all year long for good health… even better!

Dandelion greens are excellent in salads, sautéed or steamed.  They taste like chicory and endive but with an intense heartiness overlying a bitter tingle.  Today, people shun bitter flavors – being so conditioned by overly sweet or really salty processed foods.  But whether you add good or bitter flavors together in food or have one over the other, you can add Dandelions to help improve the flavors.  

You could even just sauté them for approx. 20 minutes with onions and garlic in olive oil and maybe add a little red or white wine before they’re done.  If you’re not at all interested or used to the slight bitterness, cook the Dandelions with sweet vegetables such as sliced carrots and parsnips.  Boiling Dandelions in one or more changes of water makes them milder – a good introduction if you’re new to natural foods.  Early spring is also a time for the crown, the flower bud.  

This too can be sautéed, pickled, or cooked with vegetable dishes.  Feel free to eat the Dandelion flowers, make Dandelion Wine, or homemade shampoos, soaps etc.  Collect them in a sunny meadow, just before mid-spring, when the most flowers bloom.  Some continue to flower right into the fall.  


Use only the flower’s yellow parts.  The green sepals at the flower’s base are very bitter.  The flowers add color, texture and an unusual bittersweet flavor to salads.  You can sauté them, dip them in batter and fry them into fritters, or steam them with other vegetables.  They have a meaty texture that contrasts with other lighter vegetables in a stir-fry dish or casserole.  You can pickle the flower buds, using vinegar and spices in the mix, calling them Dandelion Flower Pickles.

The taproot is edible all year long and is at it’s best from late fall to early spring.  Remember you can always preserve and can the Dandelions as well so that you can take a jar out and use the Dandelions as you please.  Use the taproot as a cooked vegetable, such as in soups.  

The root may not be as tasty as other wild root vegetables, but it isn’t bad.  Pre-boiling and changing the water more than once or cooking on a slow simmer will help in reducing the bitterness of the root… keeping in mind however, that the more this is done, you will lose important nutrients down the drain.  If you sauté the roots in olive oil, this will improve them and help create more of a robust flavor.  Some soy sauce and onions complete this unusual vegetable side dish.

Also, be sure to make good use of the Dandelion leaves.  Their bitter elements encourage the production of proper levels of hydrochloric acid and digestive enzymes.  All the digestive glands and organs respond to this herb’s stimulation.  Even after the plan gets bitter, a strong infusion while rich in vitamins and minerals is helpful for people who are run-down.  Taraxacum – Arabic & Persian meaning; “bitter herb”.  Even when the leaves are at their most bitter level, they never become intolerably so – not like golden seal and gentian – as I have been told.

This is all possible because dandelions send roots down two to three feet into the ground, beyond the oft-depleted topsoil and deep into the mineral-rich subsoil which other vegetable plants are not equipped to mine. These taproots, and the roots which extend from them, suck in this goodness and transport it to the surface.

So, you have a choice… you can either spend $30+ on a bottle of colloidal trace minerals that most likely has additives and unknown side effects, or you can eat a dandelion!  Since the famous Dandelion will not harm you but rather keep you healthy & happy, why would you choose to harm a Dandelion?

Since I enjoy experimental cooking, I will most likely use the entire plant… but no matter how you choose to use the Dandelion, be sure to eat it, because IT IS GOOD FOR YOU! 

This is PrairieHillHues signing off for now.  Until then, if you are currently living in Dandelion Season, eat one!