Bounty of dandelions

Many homeowners generally frown upon the forsaken dandelion but this wildflower has a number of virtues. They are both edible and medicinal. Considered a weed in most parts of the country, they pop up in manicured lawns and multiply. Here in Tahoe, the dandelion is another one of the many beautiful wildflowers that dot the majestic landscape. In recent weeks, dandelions have popped up everywhere and are growing like weeds (pun intended).

The word dandelion comes from “dent de lion” in French and means “tooth of the lion” named for the jagged, tooth-like edges of the leaves. It has been used as a medicinal herb for thousands of years. In fact, the entire dandelion is edible from the bright happy yellow flowers to the milky stem and serrated green leaves. The plant can be eaten raw or cooked.

The root of the dandelion can be dried and roasted for a coffee-like beverage. To prepare the coffee substitute, clean the roots, chop and lay them out on a sheet pan and roast in the oven at 325 degrees F for 1.5 to 2 hours. Once roasted, steep them in boiling water for 10 to 15 minutes.

The flowers of the dandelion can be used to make tea, which can be beneficial for digestion, detoxification and cleansing. The tea supports liver and kidney function and helps with hydration. Dandelion tea is readily available at health-food stores. The dandelion has also been used to treat a myriad of ailments including skin problems, anemia, muscle aches, appetite loss, flatulence, joint pain and bruising. The dandelion can also increase urine production and serve as a mild laxative.

The entire dandelion is edible from the bright happy yellow flowers to the milky stem and serrated green leaves.

Rich in vitamin C, fiber, potassium, iron, calcium, magnesium, zinc and phosphorus, the dandelion leaves can be harvested at any point in the growing season and are great in salads. Add goat cheese, veggies, roasted almonds to the leaves and top with delicious honey Dijon dressing.

As a side dish, sauté the greens in a touch of olive oil and garlic with a pinch of Himalayan sea salt before serving. The leaves can sometimes be a tad bitter; some people feel the younger leaves are the less bitter they are. Still, others enjoy the taste of bitter greens.

Another recipe people make are fried dandelion fritters. They can be prepared savory or sweet and are a fun project to make with the kids.

Dandelion wine is also made using the petals of the flower. There are a number of recipes floating around on the Internet. Fentimans makes a fermented Dandelion & Burdock beverage, which is an infusion of dandelion leaves and burdock root, sweetened with pear juice and spiced with a touch of ginger and anise.

There are some things to consider when using dandelions. Avoid picking dandelions in areas where pesticides may have been sprayed or that grow along the roadside. If you have allergies to ragweed, the dandelion may cause a reaction.

Many of the local farmers’ markets sell dandelion greens. But, if you are looking for something fun to do, find a field, bring a basket and load up on the wildflower. Let us know what you create with your dandelion bounty.

 

Dandelion Pesto
1-2 C dandelion leaves
¼ C olive oil
½ C pine nuts
Lots of garlic
¼ C Parmesan cheese

Mix in a blender and serve over penne pasta or use as a sandwich spread. This is definitely a unique sauce to serve at a meal.

 

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Priya Hutner
Priya Hutner is a writer, personal chef and meditation teacher. She writes feature articles about music, art, food and recreation. Priya loves to immerse in story. Whether jumping from a plane, eating obscure foods or hitting the Tahoe-Reno music scene, she is always up for adventure and experience. Having moved to the mountains from Sebastian, Fla., she embraces the Tahoe lifestyle and loves to ski, hike, paddle and swim. Priya is the owner of the Seasoned Sage, a business that prepares organic meals and facilitates workshops that promote a health-conscious lifestyle. She is currently writing a memoir about her experience living on an ashram and working on a series of cookbooks. | priya@tahoethisweek.com