Herb of the Month – Dandelion
I was out for a hike in Mt Falcon and noticed the first dandelion leaves, my favorite spring edible, peeking out on the side of the trail. Emerging dandelions are plentiful and tasty this month.
Taraxacum officinale, dandelion, is one of the top five most nutritious vegetables, ahead of broccoli and spinach. It contains Vitamin A, calcium, iron, thiamine, riboflavin, and trace minerals. Europeans have been eating dandelions for centuries and you can find them here in upscale markets and restaurants, not to mention in the backyard.
Medicinal plant properties include its use as a liver tonic and mild diuretic. All parts of the plant are edible. Dandelion leaves can be used in salads, egg dishes, casseroles, soups, and vegetable dishes. Pick young leaves in the spring before they flower or set bud, as older leaves or leaves from flowering plants are bitter. They can be used to replace spinach in recipes. The fall roots can be chopped, roasted, and used as a healthy coffee substitute.
The flowers, steeped in water, make a fine face wash, herbal bath, or steam. You can also use the flowers for vinegar and wine. Pull out the flower petals and blend them into butter and cheese spreads, or as a bright garnish for salads and other dishes. The flowers are a source of a natural yellow dye and are an important pollen source for honeybees.
So don’t scorn this generous, sunny little plant. Use it to give yourself a healthy spring boost.