Spring is in the air and you know what that means? Dandelions are back!!
This beautiful flower, while being one of the best common backyard plants, is also one of the most hated, looked at as only a pesky weed and not as the healer that it is. Like most people, I can remember playing with dandelions in my backyard as a child, making wishes and blowing the seeds across the lawn (something my parents didn’t always appreciate lol). I had no idea back then that dandelion had so many nutritious benefits and that you could actually EAT them!
Now that I have three children of my own, I love watching them go out and play with this delightful flower. My son loves this time of year because he has so many wonderful herbs to pick while we do our backyard foraging.
Related: Backyard Foraging- Chickweed
Dandelions are not only edible, but they are medicinal too. You can munch on the roots, the leaves, and the flowers, although I would try just a nibble at first because dandelions can be bitter! One tip is to look for younger dandelions- these tend to be less bitter than their elders. You can also cook these parts by sauteing, steaming, or roasting them, to take some of the bite out of it. I’ve even read that you can take the flowers and make dandelion fritters!
They can actually be quite tasty if prepared right!
Perhaps the best known medicinal benefit of consuming dandelion is that it is a great liver tonic and blood purifier. It’s also high in vitamin A, B, C, and D, iron, potassium, and calcium. Dandelion is also great for digestion and the production of bile, helping break down cholesterol and fat.
If you’re in need of a diuretic, making some fresh dandelion tea will help do the trick! You can easily buy this tea at the store, but if I was you, I’d just hop out into my backyard and grab a handful!
Dandelion or Cats Ear?
Now, before you get too excited and run out into your yard, I want you to make sure you are pulling up dandelions and NOT cats ear! It’s very common for these two to get mixed up, and I admit that I have mistaken cats ear for dandelion many times. I did not know that there was a copycat (literally!) of dandelion until about a year ago when I attended a local herbal workshop. While both are edible, each offers different benefits when it comes to consumption.
Dandelion means “lions tooth” and as you can see below, the leaves truly embrace this definition:
Cats ear leaves do NOT look like this! Instead, cats ear leaves are curvy around the edges. They still have yellow flowers and poof balls at the end of their life cycle, so it’s super easy to get these two confused. That’s why you check the leaves for easy identification! Currently, I don’t have any cats ear in my backyard for a comparison, but I will upload a pic as soon as possible. For now, you can see the difference by visiting this page.
Yummy Dandelion Mocha!
So the best way to start becoming familiar with dandelion is starting to USE IT! The wonderful thing about this beautiful flower is that there is plenty of it to go around. Often you will find multiple dandelion plants within one area- just make sure that you leave some to seed back into the earth, allowing you to get more in the future.
Probably my favorite way to use dandelion so far is roasting it and using it for this DELICIOUS dandelion mocha, featured in Rosemary Gladstar’s Medicinal Herbs, A Beginner’s Guide.
This is a FANTASTIC way to start using the benefits of dandelion, without getting the bitter taste that sometimes comes along with it. I made this for my kids yesterday, and they sucked it down at lightening speed!
Due to copyright, I cannot legally repost this recipe (I know, I know, major bummer!!!), but I’ll tell you briefly that I roasted the dandelion root, transferred and simmered it in filtered water on the stove, strained it, and then added yummy raw cacao, almond milk, cinnamon, and a pinch of cloves. To get the full recipe with exact measurements, plus other amazing dandelion recipes, please check out Rosemary’s awesome book here.
So I hope that next time you are out in your yard, and you see dandelion, that you can admire the beauty and power of this healing plant. It always makes me sad when I hear people speak so poorly of common “weeds”- in reality they can be medicinal allies and help aid us in so many situations. Now that it is spring, you can certainly go out today and begin reconnecting with this wonderful plant!
Cheers to good health and dandelion mochas!
P.S. The Herb Fairies are offering a free download of their herbal cookbook! This cookbook has 13 fun herbal recipes you can make with kids (or kids at heart!), from chickweed grilled cheese (can totally be made vegan-friendly!) to REAL marshmallows and dandelion flower cookies. To get the cookbook, all you have to do is opt-in for their free Herb Fairies video series, which is pretty awesome, too! Get it by visiting this page:)
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