This weeks featured plant is: Dandelion
I know what your thinking, that's just a weed, not so my friend, not so! This so called 'pesky weed" is a true medicinal and nutritional powerhouse! Who knew? Our ancestors did and it got them through some tough times ( anyone remember the great depression?). Foraging is in my opinion a very important skill to learn and teach our children. Or if your like me and would rather grow and forage as much of your food as possible so I know where my food comes from this is a great start for you.
Dandelions are a very good first plant to forage for because almost everyone knows what it looks like here in America and the whole plant is edible, also you can use at least one part of the plant all through the warmer weather season. The green leaves are best early in the season for eating in salads, vegetable saute's ect. , personally my favorite way to eat the greens, is to add it into my baby salad (with baby spinach and kale ect.) recipes as well as to saute it with a bit of bacon and onion although be prepared for the greens to cook down dramatically. The flowers have been used to make Dandelion wine, you can make a beautiful pale yellow jelly, some people like to make a batter and dip the yellow flowers in the batter and deep fry. You can really wow your friends with some unique culinary delights! You can also dry and powder the greens to add an extra nutritional boost to soups, stews smoothies and even in baked goods as a hidden veggie for the kiddo's or picky husband ( mint chocolate chip cookies would be perfect because the green color would go perfectly)!
Some of the health benefits of the greens are high amounts of vitamins A, C and K. High in folate, calcium and potassium as well as high antioxidants. Some say it is effective to lower cholesterol, regulate blood sugar, lower blood pressure ( great for those with high blood pressure but if, like me you deal with POTS dysautonomia you will not want to eat large amounts), its been shown to reduce inflammation, reduce risk of certain types of cancer and very alkaline plant producing a atmosphere that reduces the growth of cancer cell growth, boost your immune system and more!
As you can see in our first dandelion harvest of the year, I have quite a bit of the root still attached, that is because I like to dehydrate the root to use in tea's, tonic's ect. Up until now I've talked mainly about the culinary side of the plant but I'm going touch on the medicinal uses now. I've mentioned a few ways to use it, such as in tea's and tinctures ( I planned to do posts in the future on how to make herbal tea blends, tinctures, salves ect.) but this wonderful plant is also great for topical use as in a salve or oil infusion. As I mentioned above it is good for fighting inflammation, its good for fighting sun damage according to some studies, and is said to have natural pain fighting abilities, it is also moisturizing and great for dry cracked skin as well as for psoriasis and eczema! Not bad for a weed that so many people work so hard to kill! The salve is typically made out of the flower portion of the plant. I like to make a salve with dandelion, comfrey, and plantain along with some antibacterial and healing essential oils for my wound salve, this is our version of your typical "antibiotic" cream you keep in a first aid kit. For camping and hiking you can cut a straw into single use sizes close one end by heating a pair of pliers and clamping the end of the straw to seal it (I've also used a old hair straightener) fill it with the salve and repeat to seal the other opening.
The one caution I would have is if you suffer from sever allergies to pollen and ragweed start off with testing the salve on a small area of skin and see if it causes a reaction, if so this salve might not be for you, if you don't have a reaction than you are good to go.
I hope this has been informative and beneficial for you! If you any plant you want me to highlight next be sure to contact me, if not stay tuned for my next featured plant next Foraging Friday!
Then God said, "Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees on the earth bearing fruit after their kind with seed in them"; and it was so. The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed after their kind, and trees bearing fruit with seed in them, after their kind; and God saw that it was good.
* If you enjoyed Foraging Friday's please be sure to checkout Thursday Herb days!*