Dandelion - The Dandy Weed
Most gardeners detest them, but herbalists consider the pesky dandelion to be one of the most nutrient-rich herbs in the plant kingdom. Even though these well-adapted weeds are the bane of those looking for the perfect lawn, the whole plant is actually edible; the flowers are used as a garnish, the leaves boiled like spinach or added to salads, and the roots used as a coffee substitute.
The dandelion may be a nuisance, but maybe it really has something worthwhile to say. Perhaps the name says it all - it comes from the French 'dents de lion', meaning 'teeth of the lion', referring to its jagged leaves. Just like the lion, dandelion lays down its territory and has a strong bitter bite!
This 'bitter bite' is the primary constituent responsible for its stimulating effect on the digestive system that increases bile flow in the liver and gallbladder. The increase in bile flow may help improve fat metabolism (including cholesterol) in the body. People today balk at bitter flavors - we're so conditioned by overly sweet or salty food - but mixed with other flavors, dandelions enhance the taste of many foods and create an interesting spark to an everyday salad.
The leaves are more nutritious than just about anything you can buy. They're higher in beta-carotene than carrots, and the iron and calcium content is unparalleled, even greater than spinach. And you can't beat the fact that this wholesome veggie grows free on virtually every lawn!
If you're going to collect dandelion on your own though, make sure you know the area that you are harvesting from and that it has not been sprayed with chemicals or fertilizers - this includes roadsides, the neighbor's lawn and even near popular hiking trails. The leaves are best at their youngest, before the flower has blossomed. But don't miss out on the flowers! Collect them in a sunny meadow in the springtime, when the most flowers are in bloom. Use only the flower's yellow parts; the green sepals at the flower's base are very bitter.
Dandy Spring Salad
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