Dandelion crop or pest?

Andy Hamilton, 30 October 2009, 8 comments
Categories: Food, Outdoors, Seasonal Garden, Wild food, Wild food, Wild foods
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Dandelions are traditionally a well-know bane of most gardeners, their deep roots make them a tough weed to eliminate from any plot.   To ensure they do not return the entire root must be taken out. This is perhaps best done in the autumn if they are to be used, as this is when the plant will begin to store it’s nutrients ready for its growth in spring.   The name dandelion comes from the French dent de lion or lions tooth which refers to the tooth like shape of the petals.

Herbalists have used it for centuries and if seen as a crop rather than a pest can become enjoyable or at least a little less frustrating to dig up.   Culpeper, the 17 th century herbalist writes of its medical properties, ‘It has an opening and cleansing property and, therefore, very effectual for removing obstructions of the liver, gall bladder and spleen and diseases arising from them such as jaundice’. Indeed modern herbalists still use the plant with the root being the most active part of the plant. It contains, amongst other things, a high content of vitamin A, some of the B vitamins and the leaves contain vitamin C.   It has strong diuretic properties, which are perhaps best characterised by its vulgar name, ‘wet-the-Bed’.

Uses

The flowers (when still yellow) can be boiled with sugar, or honey to make a cough or throat medicine.

After a thorough wash the roots can be dried out either by wrapping in newspaper and placing somewhere with a steady flow of air, (this is essential as if left elsewhere the can grow mould as I found to my cost) or in the sun or even with a hairdryer. Whether or not to dry them completely is debatable some recipes insist on it and others claim they only need to be patted dry before roasting. Once dried it can be ground and used like coffee. Which is said to have anti-carcinogenic properties due to its high level of anti-oxidants.   It can also be used in beer and way widely used instead of hops in the 17th century.

The leaves can be added to soups and stews as an extra vegetable or cooked with spinach and/or young nettles or nettle tops. Young leaves can be added to salads, although I have found this to be quite bitter.


Comments

8 Responses, Leave a Reply
  1. simonthescribe
    27 November 2009, 4:39 pm

    Coffee made from fresh roasted dandelion roots is delicious, you can even over-roast them very slightly to add a kind of burnt coffee flavour. Fresh roasted in an oven and ground are far superior to the stuff you buy in health food shops.
    simonthescribe

  2. Andy Hamilton
    27 November 2009, 4:59 pm

    It is a richer flavour than shop bought you are right. I have accidently over-roasted some in the past and I do find that it does add something to the flavour.

    Have you tried lightly frying dandelion roots in butter before simmering?

  3. crowsashes
    04 January 2010, 4:45 pm

    i like the root thinly sliced and stir-fried, Japanese style in a little soy sauce. you can also make a bath oil from the flowers.

  4. Andy Hamilton
    04 January 2010, 5:08 pm

    Yes, it is nice stir fried – Do you mix burdock or anything else with it?

    Never heard of the bath oil, will look into that one. Thanks very much!

  5. Pete Holden
    30 January 2010, 10:19 pm

    I can`t remember where I read it, but I cut the green tops off dandelions then cover and force them cover with bucket or similar) the leaves are pale and tender and great in salads

  6. Niki
    19 March 2010, 9:13 pm

    I just found in my Grandmothers old recipe box, a recipe for Dandelion Wine.
    2 quarts of Dandelion Flowers
    4 quarts of boiling water
    4 pounds of white sugar
    3 lemons & 4 oranges, sliced
    1 cup of yeast
    ~ Pour boiling water over flowers & let stand for 24hours
    ~ Slice lemons & oranges, put sugar over then, let stand over night
    ~Strain water from flowers, add the lemons & oranges and yeast, let stand 5 days in a warm place, then strain and bottle.
    :drunken:

  7. Ben
    28 June 2010, 2:32 pm

    Dip the flowers in batter and deep fry. Very nice mild honey flavour.

  8. ruth
    23 October 2010, 12:05 pm

    we make dandilion honey which is very nice. it is made from the flowers picked when they are open in bright sunlight, sugar and water.

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