Foraging for Food Part 1: Harvesting Dandelion

             Most of us are think of our food sources from grocery stores, markets etc. I always knew that there were many plants growing wildly that were not only medicinal, but also a source of edible nutrition – and free! Not that I would totally abandon grocery store and market veggies but learning how to identify “wild edibles” and then “harvest” them for eating or medicine is not only fun but also healthy.

            In this blog-series, we will start off by talking about one of the most abundant wild plants everywhere – Dandelions! I don’t know about you, but I’ve always liked bright dandelion flowers and always thought it was too bad that they are regarded as a weed. The yellow-dotted fields are kind of pretty right now, don’t you think? Medicinally, dandelion, or Taraxacum has been studied for its anti-tumor activities (1), and its ability to prevent liver toxicity in animal studies (2). In the same study, Taraxacum officinale root (2) was shown to cause a significant reduction in liver enzymes. Other research has shown antioxidant, hepatoprotective (liver-protecting) anti-tumor factors and diuretic effects present in the dandelion leaves also (3). It’s no surprise that the dandelion plant is used in herbal tinctures, supplements and in teas (Dandyblend is my favourite) for its detoxifying effects. The spring is a great time to detoxify all of the toxins that we have accumulated over the winter from holiday eating, drinking and being less active. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the season of Spring also correlates with the organ of the Liver, and is a time when more liver-protecting and detoxifying foods and medicines are consumed.

            For dandelion harvesting, I would recommend picking ones that have not been sprayed with pesticides – therefore plants found on the outskirts of the city or in more naturalized areas are recommended. You will need a dandelion picker that is able to pull out whole plants, including the roots. All of the plants from the root, leaf and flower are edible. The flowers can be used as decorative and also edible additions to salads. The greens are delicious sauteed, and the roots can be boiled or dried for teas.

Garlic Lemon Dandelion Greens

Pick a large bowl filled with dandelions. Pick off the leaves from the whole plant and wash thoroughly. Cut off the stems on the bottom. Sautee a few crushed garlic cloves in olive oil for a few minutes. Add the greens and squeeze fresh lemon juice (as desired) onto the greens and cook until wilted and soft. Add salt and pepper. In this recipe I added pre-cooked bacon bits because I was serving to some men with picky taste buds. Choose to add whatever you like in it!

This should only take a few minutes. Note: the greens do shrink quite a bit, so you might need more dandelions than you think.

Here is what my dandelion greens looked like!

Sauteed Dandelion Greens

Sauteed Dandelion Greens

 

Dried Dandelion Root Tea

Break off the roots from the dandelion plant and scrub soil/dirt off with water. If large roots, cut into thinner sections. Lay out flat on a baking sheet and bake at 200 degrees for 3 hours. Let cool and grind in a spice/coffee grinder. Add ½-1tsp to a tea bag or tea strainer and add boiled water. Enjoy!

 

 

References:

1.    Takasaki et al (1999). Anti-carcinogenic activity of Taraxacum plant. II. Biol Pharm Bull. Jun;22(6):606-10. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10408235

2.    You et al (2010). In vitro and in vivo hepatoprotective effects of the aqueous extract from Taraxacum officinale (dandelion) root against alcohol-induced oxidative stress. Food Chem Toxicol. Jun;48(6):1632-7. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20347918

3.    Clare (2009). The diuretic effect in human subjects of an extract of Taraxacum officinale folium over a single day. J Altern Complement Med. Aug;15(8):929-34. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19678785