HEALTHY LIVING

The Superfood Surprise in Your Yard

You know dandelions? The so-called “weed” growing in your yard with the “wishes” or  “blowballs” we all enjoy blowing into the air? It’s not just an ordinary weed; it is a tremendous nutritional powerhouse. I think we’d spend less time, effort, and money trying to eradicate this pesky plant if we understood just how much it offers.

This plant grows all across the world, which shouldn’t surprise you when you think about the efficiency and resiliency it showed when taking over your yard.

DandelionFamous beverages such as dandelion and burdock, dandelion wine, dandelion coffee and most notably root beer are all made from this humble plant. Victorian aristocracy even ate it as a delicacy! The whole plant can be consumed, and if you pluck the leaves but leave the root undisturbed, new leaves will grow back, since it’s a perennial (which is one of the reasons it’s so hard to get out of your yard!). But none of that is the highlight. It’s when you take a closer look at the nutrition of this plant that you can see just how much more than a weed it is.

NUTRITIONALLY IT PACKS QUITE THE PUNCH:

  • It is a particularly high source of Vitamins A, C and K.
  • It offers a good amount of trace minerals
  • Curiously, it also contains decent amounts of protein, which you might not expect from this leaf veggie.

It also has medicinal possibilities. Why? It is a rugged plant that will establish itself basically anywhere and thrive even in drastic weather changes, which is something most other plants can’t endure. This very trait enables it to create unique plant chemicals that can promote health; its effects have been observed throughout history in many cultures and now recently through the lenses of scientific studies.

Europeans would soak the leaves in wine or vinegar and used them topically for all sorts of ailments. Today we are drawing convincing conclusions with regards to potential benefits including;

  • anti-inflammatory
  • antimicrobial
  • antioxidant
  • antifungal properties in the leaves and roots.
  • To this add other benefits such as digestive tonic, a probiotic, a liver tonic and protector, an immune modulator, and weight cholesterol, triglyceride regulator, and the list goes on.

A green pharmacy all by itself it seems, with no adverse side effect currently known, aside from triggering a ragweed allergy. If you are someone who has a ragweed allergy, you do need to avoid this plant. It’s as safe as eating spinach or kale for everyone else but you. If you aren’t sure if you have a ragweed allergy, just proceed with care and try a small amount first in a controlled environments.

PICK YOUR SALAD

The leaves can be consumed like any other green leafy vegetable. Eat leaves that visually look healthy. Early in the morning is the best time to pick them. Remember, if you only pick the leaves, they will return in as little as 2-3 weeks depending on the season. And the root can be harvested as well, especially if you want to eliminate the plant to allow something else to grow.

If you are picking leaves from your yard and any place other than a tended garden, there are some special considerations I’d recommend.

  • If you use agrochemicals or fertilizers to treat your yard, avoid eating the dandelions in your yard.
  • Not only should you pick leaves that seem to be in good visible condition, you should also look out for dangers such as dogs and cats who might want to, uh, fertilize the leaves — if you know what I mean!
  • The next step is to touch and feel the leaves for softness. Why? Older leaves are rough and prickly and not recommended for consumption, while the younger leaves are tender and less bitter.
  • When you pick your leaves, wash them thoroughly to eliminate debris and dirt, even more carefully than you would when cleaning produce from a farmer’s market or store, which has often been washed once or twice before it reaches you.
  • Wash the leaves with a vinegar/water mixture or organic vegetable wash of choice. Put the mixture or wash in a bowl with the leaves and swish them around for a few minutes. You can also gently run your fingers over the leaves to loosen any tough dirt. Rinse everything well under cold running water.
  • If you want to use the root, you can! It looks like a carrot or a ginseng root, though not related. The root needs to be cleaned with more care and then you can peel the rough outer skin to uncover the white flesh. This can be cut up and eaten raw in a salad or boiled to make a tincture. Note: the root is a medium to a strong diuretic, so keep this in mind and monitor your serving sizes.

Start by eating small amounts and work your way up, mindfully exploring how this food feels in your unique body. Most people dislike the taste initially, but this is natural since it is not a flavor we’re generally accustomed too.

Here is a recipe to make dandelion tea, as teas and tinctures are generally a more palatable way to partake of this food. I recommend looking for medicinal quality dandelion teas, they are processed carefully with minimal contamination.

If you are pregnant, nursing, or are undergoing serious medical treatment, please consult your qualified medical doctor. Seriously, dandelion leaves are no more dangerous than spinach or lettuce, however, it’s always good to ask to be on the safe side so you can evaluate your unique medical situation.

A medicinal green pharmacy in your very own yard. A gift from nature that can be picked and grow back in no time to be picked again for free? Sounds good to me! Try it and let us all know what you think, and post any comments or questions below, tweet @SuperLifeLiving or post on Facebook.

 

References

1. Marta Gonz.lez-Castej.n, Francesco Visioli, and Arantxa Rodriguez-Casado (2012)

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