What CAN you do with Dandelions?

...asked someone on my instagram feed. The answer is...WHAT CAN'T YOU DO WITH DANDELIONS?!?!?

Dandelion, Taraxacum officinale, is still considered a weed by many. Well, not by us Hedgewitches, herbal medicine makers, plant people. It is one of those wonderful plants where most every part of it is useful (the stem's a mite bitter), and most everyone knows what it looks like, and where to find it.

This makes it a plant not just beloved to herbalists, but a great beginner's one as well.

The easiest way to interact with herbs, is to include them in your diet in the form teas, vinegars, and actual meal ingredients. This is the oldest way of herbalism, treating food as medicine, and Dandelion is a perfect plant friend to have that relationship with.

Here's a few ways I like to use dandelion in my food:

Greens- for salads, additions to green pestos and smoothies, use like spinach as cooked greens. They're rich in antioxidants, flavonoids, vitamins K,C, and B6, calcium, iron, potassium and I can't even remember what else...

Root-add it to your herbal vinegar.Great for digestion, liver support, immune support, also rich in antioxidants. My friend Chen (@life.learning.chen on insta, one of the most epic wildcrafted food peeps you'll meet!) reminded me that if you're industrious, you can dry, or roast the root and make your own coffee substitute powder from it too!You can also slice it fine and pickle it, but it's bit tough in my experience. (And obviously it can be tinctured, but this is a cooking post. ;)

Flowers-make dandelion wine? Or if that's too much work, add them to your sima for a little golden herbal kick. You can also make like I do and batter them in an egg, cornmeal and spices, and fry 'em up in some oil, oh my! They're a lovely addition to quiches, potato cakes, stuffed zucchini, pizza, anything and everything where you'd use any other kind of veggies, or leafy greens. Some folks love to add them to cookies, muffins and other baked goods (though do note that adding sugar to your food as medicine kind of negates the medicine part;). 

There you have it. Those are some of the things you can do with dandelions. It is an abundant, resilient, joyous plant. I recommend you form a relationship with it.

With a plant like dandelion, the ones with the long taproots, for breaking up distressed soils, the ones that crop up everywhere, one should be extra mindful of where the plant is sourced from. Always make sure to gather your foods and medicines from places where you know no contaminants could have entered the plant. Avoid roadsides, pesticide-treated lawns, and other compromised areas. Always rinse your plant matter thoroughly before using. 

What are the other plants in this picture, you may ask? Well, they're Cleavers, Miner's Lettuce, Lawn Daisies, Fir Tips, and Bracken Fern fiddleheads. What do I plan to do with them? You may also ask. The Cleavers and some of the Miner's Lettuce are for medicine, the rest and the Lawn Daisies for a stir fry, and the Fiddleheads, for an asparagus like side dish, with butter. But before you rush off to pick your own fiddleheads, be advised of two things: they're considered carcinogenic, and if you pick them, the plant may not grow again for this season (I try to pick the sideshows.). For both reasons, we eat them very sparingly. 

Which brings me to something I've been wanting to mention for a while, about plants, caution, and mindfulness: 

If you're planning to eat wild foods please make sure you know how to identify them correctly in your area. Get a field guide (specific to your area/ bio-region), and always double- and-triple-check your sources. DO NOT EVER go by what someone, most anyone says online (less the information is a part of a course, and even then I encourage you to always consult multiple sources in plant id), or especially on a picture on instagram, or a blog. For one thing, the person who posted it may or may not be knowledgeable about plants, you never really know, and different plants can look different in different bio-regions.

Wildcrafting and herbalism are definitely #trending these days, and while it's wonderful to get empowered about bio-regional knowledge, one's own health, and food as medicine, it's important to note that plant knowledge is a life-long pursuit. It doesn't come instantly. I encourage anyone and everyone to pursue it, but please, do it with the respect that the powers of the plants require. This is a topic for a whole other post, but this one written by the lovely Sophia Rose of La Abeja Herbs is absolutely essential reading to all wildcrafters, novice and seasoned. Her work is thoughtful, magical, and a great resource, so poke around and check out her offerings too <3 

That's all for now, folks! Happy Spring!