As seen in the May 2017 issue of Sunshine Coast Living Magazine!
When you see dandelions, what is the first thing that comes to mind?
“Nice! Bee food!”
“Those leaves will be great in a salad!”
“I’m running low on coffee.. I wonder how long the root is ?”
If you’re the majority of the population, probably none of the above because we’re a society that’s demonized the dandelion and probably even cursed at it and sprayed it with poison at least a few times in our lives.
Contrary to popular belief, the dandelion is actually pretty remarkable. According to a recent article by CBC News, a biochemist at the University of Windsor has just been given a $217,000 grant to continue studying how effective dandelion root extract is in fighting cancer. Researchers have already shown how “repeated treatment with low dose dandelion root extract was effective in killing most of the cancerous cells.”
Aside from being a potentially powerful cancer-fighting warrior, dandelions are versatile plants with many medicinal and functional uses. Here are a few of my faves.
Four Fabulous Uses for Dandelions (That Don’t Involve Pesticides)
#1 Eat Them!
“If you can’t beat them, eat them.” ~James A. Duke, botanist – on dandelions
Raw dandelions are jam-packed with nutrients, in particular, vitamins A, C, K, B6, calcium and thiamin. You can mix the young leaves into salads, soups, and stir-frys, or, use the leaves and the flower in a favourite recipe of mine, Savory Swiss Cheese and Dandelion Spelt Scones.
#2 Drink Them!
Two of my favorite beverages, made possible with dandelions – coffee and wine!
Dandelion Root Coffee
If you’ve been considering treating your liver to a pre-summer detox, than you’ve met your match! Dandelion roots have powerful cleansing and healing properties, and also contain probiotics, which are essential for optimal gut health, and are high in antioxidants. Dandelion root coffee is called a coffee because it tastes and looks very much like the real-deal, but is surprisingly less bitter, and, of course, decaffeinated.
To make dandelion root coffee you’ll need roasted dandelion roots. You can buy roasted dandelion roots at some health food stores and online, or you can make them yourself!
HARVESTING & ROASTING: When harvesting dandelion roots, look for mature plants with large leaves. Loosen the soil by digging around the plant with a small shovel, and gently wiggle the dandelion out from the ground, being careful not to snap it at the base. Next, remove the root from the leaves, wash well, chop into small pieces, pulse in a food processor, and lay the roots in a single layer on a baking sheet, and bake at 300F until golden brown. Leave the roasted roots to cool completely and then place them in a sealable jar for storage.
MAKING THE COFFEE: You need about one and a half tablespoons of roasted roots for every cup of water. Add roots and boiling water to a French Press and leave to steep for about 15-20 minutes. Add your desired sweetener and milk, as you would your regular coffee. Enjoy!
Dandelion wine – it’s a thing! I made it a few summers back using this recipe , and it’s surprisingly delightful! I mean, don’t expect it to win any awards or anything, but it does the trick (a.k.a gets you tipsy)!
#3 Dandelion Flower-Infused Oil
If you’re a die-hard DIY-er, like myself, then you will love using dandelion flower-infused oil in soaps and salves. I have a dandelion salve on hand during the summer for my poor hands and feet to soothe them after a day of glove-less and barefoot gardening.
INFUSING OIL WITH DANDELIONS: gather dandelion flowers and leave them to wilt on your windowsill for a day or two. Fill a jar ½ -3/4 full with the wilted dandelions and cover with a liquid carrier oil like olive, avocado, sweet almond or grapeseed (don’t get too hung up on amounts). Leave to infuse on your window sill for 2-3 weeks before straining. Store strained oil in the fridge for future use. Complete oil-infusion tutorial here.
Simple Dandelion Gardening Salve Recipe
This salve is the perfect relief for dry, cracked hands and heels after a day in the garden.
- 4 oz (114 g)Dandelion-Infused Oil
- .5 oz (14 g) Beeswax
- 10 drops of each, Lavender and Tea Tree Essential Oils (optional)
Add the Dandelion Oil and Beeswax to a glass jar or Pyrex measuring cup and melt over low heat using the “double boiler” method (place the jar of oils in a saucepan or pot of simmering water).
Once the oils have melted, remove from heat and add essential oils.
Pour into a small glass jar, or whatever you have on have that you can re-purpose, and seal with a lid.
Apply to dry or cracked skin as often as necessary -will last for approximately one year.
#4 Leave Them for the Bees
Last but not least, leave them for the bees! You may be thinking that this isn’t really a “use” for dandelions, but it actually is…in an indirect way. Bees need food, and we need bees to pollinate food…or else we won’t have any. So do your fellow bees (whom are currently dying by the millions), a favour, and leave them some pesticide-free flora.
Finally, please remember – when you spray a weed with harmful herbicides, you’re not just killing the weed itself, but also pollinators, like butterflies, birds and bees, beneficial microorganisms in the soil, and contaminating ground and surface water. We’re all connected so please be kind to Mother Nature.