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Edible Weeds: Dandelion

The dandelion is more often than not cursed for its miraculous ability to resurface along the garden path again and again despite our finest weeding efforts; but the dandelion is actually an absolute wonder of the edible plant world. 

Dandelion tea is widely available in health food shops and supermarket aisles, but few people connect it to the weed they may be pulling out and tossing every weekend.  It may however be time to re-consider where you toss it. 

Persistent and widespread, the dandelion's Latin name, Taraxacum officinale, means "official remedy of disorders" which is telling in itself of the myriad applications of this bold yellow flower.

As a natural alternative to more invasive treatments it can aid in areas including but not limited to: liver disease, diabetes, stomach maladies, cancer, heart disease.

Prevalent in the diets of long-living rural communities, dandelions pack quite the nutritional punch:

  • Excellent at balancing blood sugar levels
  • A potent liver strengthener
  • High in vitamin C (more than blueberries)
  • 3rd highest vitamin A content in foods (after beef liver and cod liver)
  • Rich in fibre
  • High in Potassium, Iron, Calcium (more than spinach), Magnesium, Phosphorus, Thiamine, Riboflavin 
  • Massively high vitamin K levels
  • Anti-diarrheal AND anti-constipatory 
  • Anti-inflammatory

Dandelions are edible from root to tip. Dandelion leaves make a delightful salad component, or you can boil or steam them like spinach. You need to pick the leaves early in the Spring before the flowers appear as they become too tough and bitter after that.  They can be prepared in any number of ways and can be steamed, boiled, sautéed, braised, eaten raw or in smoothies. Dandelion is related to chicory, used to make gourmet flavored coffee in fancy cafés around the world. Dandelion tastes much the same. 

The yellow flower heads are edible and can be used as a boiled vegetable, although most people who have tried it agree that the flavor is not the best.  The flowers can be used in baking, winemaking, or fried in batter to make fritters. The roots (best dug out in autumn) can be dried and ground to make a coffee substitute as noted or eaten like other root vegetables.

Image: Voronin76/Shutterstock

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