DIY Corner: Dandelion
By Amy Baker
DANDELION FOR A HEALTHY SPRING
The snow is beginning to melt and for the first time in months we’re seeing patches of bare ground. Soon, dandelions rosettes will emerge and not long after, seas of yellow blooms will offer nectar and pollen to bees and early pollinators. Dandelion offers food and medicine to us, too, and at just the right time! As winter turns to spring, our bodies tune in; we instinctively know that it’s time to lighten up and get moving. Dandelion offers so much of what we need.
Below you’ll learn about the benefits of dandelion roots and leaves, and how to harvest and use them. At Community Pharmacy and Community Wellness Shop, we love dandelion, so it’s no surprise that you’ll find dandelion tinctures, capsules and dried herbs at both of our stores, along with one of our all-time favorite beverages, Dandy Blend (a coffee-like, instant dandelion drink powder). Dandelion is also in herbal blends from several of our favorite brands.
ALL ABOUT DANDELION
Dandelion Roots are long and deep. They pull vitamins and minerals into the plant and offer tasty, slightly bitter food that is packed with iron, manganese, potassium and calcium. They also contain inulin, a prebiotic fiber that helps feed good gut flora and contributes to a healthy microbiome. Dandelion root has a long history in herbal medicine of supporting liver, gallbladder and digestive health. After the slower, stodgier months of winter, dandelion root’s gentle stimulating action can help get clear stagnation (which can manifest as poor digestion, intensified PMS, headaches and more) and get things moving.
How to use Dandelion Root
Harvesting – In spring, dig before the flower stalk has emerged or after the flower has gone to seed. In the fall, harvest after the first frost to capture the highest amount of inulin.
Using Roots – Scrub and roast with other root veggies. Dry and roast them to use as a tea. Chop fine and soak apple cider vinegar to make a great base for marinades and salad dressing.
Dandelion leaf boasts abundant quantities of Vitamins A, B and C, potassium, calcium, iron, phosphorus, and other minerals. The bitterness of dandelion leaves stimulates saliva production and improves digestion. Like the roots, dandelion leaves also contain large amounts of prebiotic inulin.
How to use Dandelion Leaves
Harvesting Leaves – Select the most tender leaves from each plant if using for food. Larger leaves can be used for medicine making.
Using Leaves – Rinse and dry leaves. For food, add a handful of tender leaves to salads or sauté with other greens. Use as part or all of the greens in a pesto. For medicine making, chop fine and steep as tea, tincture in alcohol or soak in vinegar for use in dressings.
HOW TO MAKE DANDELION VINEGAR
- 10-15 young dandelions with roots
- 2 c raw apple cider vinegar
- 1 pint canning jar
- parchment paper
- Harvest 10-15 young dandelion plants before stalks emerge.
- Separate leaves from roots.
- Rinse, soak and scrub the roots, making sure to remove all dirt. Set aside to dry.
- Thoroughly rinse and dry the leaves (if you have lots, reserve the smallest leaves for a salad).
- Finely chop the roots. Fill the jar about half full.
- Finely chop the leaves and pack tightly into the jar, leaving about ½ inch of space at the top.
- Fill completely with raw apple cider vinegar (available at Community Pharmacy and Community Wellness Shop). Put a piece of parchment paper between the jar and lid to keep the lid from rusting.
- Let the mix stand in a cool, shaded spot in the kitchen for a month. Shake whenever you think of it.
Strain your vinegar through a fine mesh strainer, pushing down on the plant material to release as much of the vinegar as possible.
Amy Baker is a gardener, teacher, wildcrafter, herb enthusiast and an award-winning writer. She has studied herbal medicine with various teachers in Chicago and Madison, and earned her certification as a Culinary Nutrition Expert and Instructor through the Academy of Culinary Nutrition. Amy has enjoyed creating plant medicines, natural beauty and cleaning products, and all manner of tasty, nutritious, healing recipes for decades.