Taraxacum Officinale also known as the dandelion is one of my favorite “weeds.” It has so many health benefits and can be foraged nearly everywhere.
Taraxacum Officinale, a dandelion in the United States, is a powerful, therapeutic herb found in the wild or grown in your dandelion patch. Many people try to kill these plants as they are considered a weed. When harvesting dandelion, you want to take it from a chemical-free area and not near a roadside. Many plants are similar to dandelion. The dandelion will have a milky liquid if you break the stem.
There are four stages to a dandelion’s life cycle. The first stage is the seedling stage. This can last from 8-to 15 weeks. During this stage, the plant is growing a strong root system. The leaves mature, and the edges become jagged. Stage 2 becomes a plant anywhere from 3-to 10 inches long. Stage 3 is flowers. The stem will grow up to 12 inches tall. The flower will open and close at night and as the weather changes. They close in the rain. The flower head will stay open for a couple of days, then close for a few days before reopening again. This leads to stage 4. When the flower head reopens, it releases the seeds. Each flower head can have almost 200 seeds. Each plant can spread over 2000 seeds each year. The seeds are spread by the wind. The dandelion will come up each year, offering even more dandelions to harvest.
When harvesting, you should only take what you need at that particular time. The bees love dandelions, so we need to be sure to save some for them. Without bees, we don’t have life. The flower, roots, stem, and leaves can be harvested. They all contain phytochemicals that have medicinal properties. The main phytochemicals are carotenoids, flavonoids, phenolic acids, polysaccharides, sesquiterpene lactones, sterols, and triterpenes.
Studies show that dandelion has 12 medicinal properties. They are diuretic, hepatoprotective, anticolitis, immunoprotective, antiviral, antifungal, antiobesity, antioxidant, antibacterial, antiarthritic, antidiabetic, and anticancer.
Dandelions have been used for health purposes since ancient times. It has diuretic properties as well as helps fight inflammation. Therefore it has been known to be an excellent herb for weight loss. It is also great for gut and liver health. Dandelions are rich in beta carotene, iron, vitamin A, and calcium.
When to harvest:
Leaves- the best time to harvest the leaves is in early spring, when they grow fast. It is best to gather early in the morning. Dandelions harvested from shady areas are less bitter and the leaves more tender. You can harvest the leaves again in the fall.
Flowers- the flowers can be harvested any time from mid-spring through summer. Try to find some with less dust and debris because they can be hard to clean.
Roots- the best time to harvest the roots are late fall through early spring when the plant is dormant and has stored energy.
Ways to enjoy different parts of the dandelion:
Leaves- used in salads or soups. Or you can simply add it to any meal as it helps in the digestion process. It can also be used to make a delicious dandelion tea.
Flowers- can be used to make dandelion wine, tea, and jelly. They can be dried for future use. Another excellent use for the flowers is to dip them in egg and flour and fry them. They taste kind of woody, like a morel mushroom. If you pull the green parts off the flower, you can use the flowers in desserts. The green part is too bitter.
Roots- great for a coffee substitute. They are also used in tea, infusions, and soups. They can also be dried for future use.
For dandelion tea:
- Gather all materials needed. (tea kettle, 1 tsp dried dandelion, water)
- Place herbs into a tea bag (1 teaspoon) and place them into a ceramic or glass cup.
- Bring 1 cup of water to a boil
- Turn the heat off and pour the boiling water over the teabag.
- Let steep 5 to 10 minutes.
- Strain the tea. Be sure to use a non-aluminum strainer to avoid a chemical reaction.
- Drink and enjoy! You have just partaken in a healthy, potent, and free medicinal herb.
You can add honey, lemon, or milk, but that will mask the fresh taste. Remember not to use honey in children under one due to botulism spores in the honey. This can be fatal for young ones.
For dandelion infusion:
- Gather all materials needed. I used my coffee cup, glass kettle, 1-pint of water, and 1 oz of dried dandelion.
- Place dried dandelion in a glass jar.
- Bring 1 pint of water to a boil.
- Once boiling, shut the kettle off and pour the boiling water over the dried dandelion.
- Cover and let steep for 10-20 minutes.
- Strain the tea and drink. It can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours in a non-aluminum container.
Honey, lemon, or other flavorings can be added for taste. The infusion is much stronger than tea, so it has higher health benefits. It may be an acquired taste, but it will be worth it!