Every year we look forward to vegetable gardening and to the opening of our local farmers’ markets to supply us with locally grown produce, but there is another source of healthy, seasonal greens right in your own yard. Common plants such as dandelions, chickweed, lamb’s quarters, miner’s lettuce and nettle are in many cases even more nutritious than domestically-raised produce, and many also contain medicinal properties.
A member of the sunflower family, dandelions are cheerful little plants that are highly nutritious, contain medicinal qualities and are delicious too – and what could be better than it being nearby, abundant, fresh – and free. All parts of dandelions are edible, including leaves, flowers, roots and stems (although the stems are not as tasty – but the milky sap found inside can be used to remove warts, corns, calluses, etc.)
Harvest young dandelion leaves in early morning; they are less bitter than more mature leaves; however, bitterness is actually beneficial for our digestive system. To offset the bitterness, you can add coconut oil, butter, nuts or sweet fruit like mango, pear etc. The leaves can be eaten raw or cooked, and can also be added to smoothies.
The flowers are best harvested in later morning/early afternoon on sunny days when fully open and dew-free. Choose an area that has not been sprayed with chemicals (and is also not frequented by pets). Use flowers immediately after harvesting. (If stored in the fridge, they will close up; if dried, they will go to seed.) The flowers may also be eaten in salads or made into jelly or wine.
Dandelions are a sensational superfood: they contain 112 per cent of your daily requirement for Vitamin A, and four times more Vitamin A than lettuce; they are also higher in beta-carotene than carrots. The iron and calcium content is greater than spinach, and contain 32 per cent of the daily requirement of vitamin C per cup of leaves. Dandelions also contain vitamins B1, B2, B5, B6, B12, biotin, vitamin D and E, several macro minerals, trace elements, and many other nutrients. Dandelions aid digestion and cleanse the liver and kidneys.
Dandelion Flower Infusion
- 10-20 dandelion flowers
- Boiling water
Remove bracts from flowers and put petals into a jar. Pour boiling water over petals, filling jar. Put on a lid and let sit for at least an hour or overnight. Strain and drink immediately, or make syrup (recipe below) for pancakes, or to sweeten anything else.
Strain infusion into a pot. Add two tablespoons honey for every one cup liquid. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Turn to low simmer until mixture starts to thicken. Remove from heat, allow to cool, pour into glass jar. Store in fridge.
- A big handful fresh dandelion leaves
- A handful fresh basil leaves
- 1 cup walnuts (or hazelnuts)
- 1 cup pine nuts (or hempseeds)
- 3 tablespoons lime juice (or lemon juice)
- 2 large cloves garlic, sliced
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- ½ cup olive oil (may need more)
- Optional – 1 small chili, sliced
Place all ingredients in food processor. Blend until fairly smooth, but still a little bit crunchy. (Add more oil as required for smooth consistency and to help blade turn.) Pack into glass jars, leaving small space at top. Pour olive oil into space to seal. Store in fridge. Best used within five days.
- 1/2 cup almond flour
- 1/3 cup coconut milk
- 1 tablespoon arrowroot powder
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 egg
- Dash sea salt
- 2 cups dandelion flowers, bracts removed
- Generous amount coconut oil
Sweet: add one tablespoon honey (or to taste) plus one to two teaspoons total of any of the following herbs: cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, cardamom
Savoury: add a pinch of thyme, rosemary, oregano or other savoury herbs
Mix dry ingredients together, then add egg. Combine well. Add the sweet or savoury ingredients. Dip flowers into batter, coating completely. Fry in hot coconut oil until golden brown. Place fried fritters on paper towel-lined plate. Cool slightly and enjoy!
Rebecca Mullins RHN is a North Bay-based Registered Holistic Nutritionist at the Wallace Integrated Health Centre.