I know, most people are looking for ways to get rid of dandelions. Sure, they are unsightly, making big yellow heads and then annoying seed heads that seem to go every which way and plant even more weeds in your yard. But – to a naturalist and permaculturist, I’m embracing my weeds and using them to my benefit. Let’s explore dandelions!
Why You Should Be Using Dandelions
Dandelions are chock full of nutrients. Every part of the plant is edible and can be used in some way. Here are 16 reasons you should not be killing those dandelions in your yard:
- The flower is a source of beta-carotene. Beta-carotene is an antioxidant than can help protect your cells from damage.
- The leaves and flowers contain Vitamin C.
- The root, flower and leaves contain fiber, which is a digestive aid.
- The root contains potassium.
- The leaves contain iron which is known to help with anemia.
- The root and leaves contain calcium and phosphorus, which are essential to bones and teeth.
- The root, leaves and flowers contain magnesium, which can help relax the muscles.
- The root contains zinc, which can help fight colds and flu.
- The entire plant is high in B complex.
- The leaves contain more protein than spinach.
- The root acts as a diuretic and can help rid the body of excess fluid and waste products.
- The root can be made into a tea, which can help to inhibit bacterial growth in the urinary tract.
- The leaves are a bitter, which can help improve liver function to remove toxins and help to improve hydration.
- All parts of the plant are rich in antioxidants, which can help to combat cancer and other ailments along with other phytonutrients found in the plant.
- Dandelion leaves can be torn and used on bites and scratches.
- Dandelion flowers make great wine.
How to Use Dandelion
Sure, you can just chop off the leaves, wash them and mix them into a salad. That’s easy. But there are many other ways to use dandelion. You can find dandelion in almost any yard, field or walkway. Be careful not to use any that may have pesticides or insecticides sprayed on them.
Dandelion Tea Blend
To use as a tea, find some good, fresh leaves. Clean and dry them. When they are dry, you can use them either by themselves or mixed with other herbs. Because they can be bitter, I use this mix for my tea:
- 1 part dandelion leaves (find them here if you don’t want to dry your own)
- 1 part mint leaves (find organic peppermint leaf here)
- ¼ part stevia leaves (find organic stevia leaf here)
- 1 part cleavers herb (find organic cleavers here)
The dandelion is a bitter and can add nutrients while aiding in digestion. The mint adds flavor and antioxidants. The stevia adds sweetness and the cleavers can help to clean out the system. Mix them all together and store in a well-labeled glass jar. Make a cup of tea with this mix and you’ll have a really healthful drink that can be enjoyed iced or cold.
Fresh or steamed
The leaves can be used fresh in salads as I mentioned earlier, or as a green that can be steamed or wilted. You might want to try it in my wilted spring greens recipe found here. You can just steam it by itself and add a bit of salt and lemon juice.
Roasted dandelion root
Dandelion root can be cleaned, dried, and roasted and used as a coffee substitute. (I’ve even seen them as a smoking substitute!)
To make your roasted dandelion root, you’ll need to dig some fresh roots and clean them well. Cut roots into pieces or use a mandolin to slice them. (Younger roots slice easier than older, tougher roots.) Place them on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. With your oven on low (no higher than 200°F), roast the roots, checking them often and turning if necessary. They may take a few hours depending on the thickness.
When they look done, take one out and allow it to cool. Try to break it – if it seems like leather, leave them in a bit longer. If they snap easily, they’re ready. When they are done, turn off the oven and leave them in there until cool. Once completely cooled, store in a sealed jar. Use within a few months. They can be ground up in a coffee grinder and mixed with coffee at a rate of ½ and ½. This will cut caffeine and add flavor, while providing you with the nutrients in the dandelion root.
Dandelion seeds can also be ground and used as a flour substitute. But that would take A LOT of seeds, so I leave them for the goldfinches as a food source.
Have you used dandelion, either as a food or a nutrient source?
Share your experience in the comments below!