Friday, October 24, 2014

Redefining weeds: The Dandelion

I am pretty sure everyone has seen these things, and most people define these plants as an invasive weed. This plant is something most people detest, and really, the dandelion has a pretty bad reputation, which is largely undeserved. The problem is that we somehow developed this preference for grassy manicured lawns, which really isn't great for the soil. Everything has a certain ecology, and the plants we've come to label as weeds really serve a particular function, and should be appreciated for all the hard work they do. I am somewhat of an advocate for weeds, I think they're great, and we need to recognize their many uses. I am going to get into the uses of the dandelion, not so much it's function in rebuilding the soil. I just want to foster looking at this plant in a different way.

I've started reading up on urban foraging because I think it's going to be handy information, as a lot of permaculture lecturers share their concerns of a food crisis that will be coming to a head soon. We have some pretty inefficient farming methods, and that's going to have a lot of repercussions soon. But that's a soap box for later.

The dandelion, those delightful little yellow flowers that most people try their hardest to rid their lawns of. Every single part of this plant is edible, although there are better times to eat the various parts, as dandelions can develop bitterness. So let's discuss the various parts of the plant starting from the bottom to the top!

The root: best to eat after the flower dies and the plant goes to seed, before it reflowers again. It's a root vegetable, so prepare it however you would prepare carrots. So use the roots in soups and stews, or saute them with some butter and garlic (this is the only way I'll eat cooked carrots, they need to still be crunchy). Dandelion root tea is also popular to aid with digestion and weight loss (it's a diuretic though, so be careful if you need to avoid those!). I've also read that the dried ground root can be a coffee substitute, but I really have no personal experience with that. Although I should probably try as I can no longer drink coffee.

The leaves: these are best to eat before the plant flowers, because they are the least bitter at this point. They are good sauteed, raw in salads, or steamed as you would spinach.

The flowers: these have multiple uses, you can eat them in salads, you can make wine from them (it's pretty tasty, although you need A TON of dandelion heads, I know, I helped a friend once), you can use them to flavor any fermented drink (I've tried a beer that had a nice flowery dandelion taste to it). I also remember reading somewhere that the flower heads can be battered and fried, I've never tried this, but if you have let me know!

The entire plant is rich in vitamins A, and C, and a good source of potassium and calcium. Every part of the plant is edible, and the worst will be a slightly bitter taste that needs to be cooked out, unless you're like me and you enjoy a good bitter green. So I hope I helped to change your view of this wonderful little plant, and maybe even tempted you to try them when they crop back up. Just be sure to forage for these tasty little things in an area where pesticides are not used, and regardless make sure you give them a good wash when you get them in the house.

Once again, I am not a doctor, I research everything before I put it on the blog, and I do my best to make sure I only relay helpful information. However, I cannot advise you on the medicinal properties of these plants, and encourage you to talk with a professional who is able to do so!

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