native to: possibly the Central Asian region
in season here: greens are best in the spring, roots in the fall
Dandelions are related to sunflowers, daisies, and thistles, and appear in medical texts as early as the 10th century. Folk medicine uses dandelions to purify the blood, improve digestion, and prevent piles and gall stones. The flower stems are a traditional soother for burns and nettle stings. The roots are sometimes roasted for use as a coffee substitute, a preparation sometimes recommended for balancing blood sugar. The leaves are best known as a salad ingredient, but can also be used in soups, casseroles, juices, and smoothies, or just cooked like spinach or chard. Dandelion greens can have a somewhat acrid flavor, which can be reduced by blanching for 20-30 seconds then immersing in icewater to stop the cooking process. The leaves can also be dried for use in tonics and teas.
Dandelion greens are very high in vitamin K, which strengthens bones and may fight Alzheimer’s. They are abundant in vitamin A, an antioxidant which is particularly good for the skin, eyes, and mucus membranes. They also have fiber, vitamins C and B6, thiamin, riboflavin, calcium, iron, potassium, manganese, folate, magnesium, phosphorus, copper, cobalt, zinc, boron, and molybdenum. Rather ironic, isn’t it, that my parents once had a conniption when I tried to eat dandelion greens out of the lawn? Although, considering all the chemicals they put on that lawn, perhaps those particular greens were dangerous….
Research indicates that dandelion roots or their extract may be useful in treating cancer, including leukemia. Dandelion greens may prove useful in treating jaundice, cirrhosis, edema, gout, eczema, acne, AIDS, and herpes. Dandelion extract has been linked to weight loss and used in dental research as an antiplaque preparation. Dandelion pollen has antibacterial effects.
Dandelions contain compounds known to have laxative and diuretic effects, so they would probably be a good addition to a detox regimen (but maybe not the best choice right before a long car trip). Also, that high potassium level can be a problem for people on certain medications.
label-style nutrition information for raw dandelion greens
label-style nutrition information for cooked dandelion greens
instructions for dandelion root coffee from leaflady.org