In most lawns in Sydney, the arrival of Spring heralds an exuberance of green, as well as yellow - the yellow of dandelions. For such a beautiful flower, dandelions can cause a lot of dread. But did you know that your lawn's enemy is your health's ally? Dandelion root is a commonly used Chinese herb, “Pu Gong Ying” and it is effective for many conditions. Dandelions are also a great source of nutrition, but few people eat them. If your lawn is organic, you can control your dandelions and boost your nutrition, all in one meal.
Many people know that dandelions are great for detoxing, but that is just the beginning. The roots are a fantastic liver tonic. The leaves are a digestive bitter and support your circulatory and lymph systems. The flowers are great for your skin. Even the sticky sap is useful—it can erase warts, corns and calluses. The entire plant is packed with nutrition. Dandelions are high in vitamins A, B, C and K. They contain a lot of minerals, including calcium, iron, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus and manganese. Controlling your blood sugar is easy with a dandelion meal. They are a low calorie, high fibre and high protein food.
Dandelions are also recommended for many health conditions. People with bone health concerns, liver disease, diabetes, urinary disorders, skin care, acne, weight loss, cancer, jaundice, gall bladder issues, anaemia and high blood pressure all benefit from eating dandelions. The nutrients found in dandelion greens may help reduce the risk of cancer, multiple sclerosis, cataracts and stroke. And on top of all of these benefits, dandelions are anti-inflammatory and may offer benefits to people with inflammatory conditions.
How to gather dandelions
It’s not hard to find dandelions in the wild since you can find them in lawns all over the country. Your biggest challenge will be finding dandelions that haven’t been sprayed. Make sure you know the history of your dandelion patch. Harvest time depends on which parts of the plant you intend to eat. Springtime is the best time to gather dandelion greens. Tender young leaves are the least bitter; look in shady areas for the tenderest plants.
The best time to harvest is after a series of cool rains, when the nights are still cool and before the plant blooms. You can gather roots any time of year, but typically people harvest them in Spring. And, of course, gather the flowers while they are blooming and look fresh and yellow. Be quick because the time from flower to seed is less than 2 weeks. Since harvesting dandelions is dirty business, the easiest way to eat dandelions is to buy them at a store. Many speciality grocery stores now carry dandelion greens, including Alfalfa House on Enmore Road.
The many health benefits of dandelions
How to eat dandelions
There are many ways to eat dandelions and the internet is full of recipes. The entire plant is edible—leaves, flowers and roots. As a rule of thumb, use the leaves the way you cook with spinach and the roots the way you cook with burdock. The flowers and roots can be both meal and beverage. You can boil and stir-fry both the flowers and roots as a cooked vegetable. And you can make wine with the flowers and roast the roots to make a coffee substitute.
The leaves are the most common part to eat. You can eat dandelion leaves both cooked and raw. In addition to steaming, boiling or stir-frying the leaves, you can throw them in a soup or combine them with kale, lettuce or cabbage. Use the raw greens in salads or on sandwiches. Dry the greens and use them for an herbal infusion. You can even juice the leaves or add them to a smoothie.
Surprise your family and friends by gathering dandelion greens and making a pesto. Serve the pesto with some crusty bread, delicious cheese and fresh spring-time fruits. Enjoy your meal while looking at your weed-free lawn.
Recipe - Dandelion Pesto
Makes 2 cups
• 350 grams washed and cleaned dandelion leaves
• 1 cup olive oil
• 4 cloves garlic, peeled
• 6 tablespoons pine nuts, lightly toasted
• 1.5 teaspoons sea salt
• 70 grams Parmesan or Romano cheese, grated (or dairy free alternative)
1. Put one-third of the dandelion greens in a food processor or blender with the olive oil and chop for a minute. Add the remaining dandelion greens in two batches until they’re finely chopped.
2. Add the garlic, pine nuts, salt and Parmesan, and process until everything is a smooth puree.
3. Taste; add more salt if necessary. Thin with olive oil or water if needed.
4. Storage: The pesto can be refrigerated in a jar for up to 4 days or frozen for up to 2 months. To prevent the top from darkening pour a thin layer of olive on top.
Ideas on how to use Dandelion Pesto:
• Spread over pizza with cooked potatoes slices and bake.
• Smear on crostini over a layer of fresh spreadable cheese.
• Dress a potato salad.
• Toss with whole wheat pasta, and add chicken or roasted vegetables. Use the pasta water or butter to smooth the sauce over the noodles.
• Swirl it into a bowl of Soupe au pistou.
Recipe from: David Lebovitz http://www.davidlebovitz.com/2011/03/dandelion-pesto-recipe/
Hopefully this article has given you some good ideas for how to make good use of an incredibly versatile, healthful and nutritious plant! If you find a great dandelion recipe that you would like to share, please do so in the comments below. Happy munching :-)
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