One Man’s Spring Tonic, Another Man’s Weeds

by mama on June 7, 2010

in My Garden


Not everyone thinks dandelions are fabulous. I’d wager most people consider them another lawn weed to contend with, one way or another.  In truth, most medicinal herbs are common plants that are prolific and commonly considered weeds. But weeds are, by definition, plants that grow where they are not wanted.

Not long ago, the kids who live up the road from us were playing in the area down our lane where my dandelion patch grows. When I explained to them, ever so politely, that they were dancing all over my dinner they looked aghast. Now when I see them they look at me like I’m the Nut Case Woman Who Eats Weeds.

I know what you’re thinking – probably the same thing I thought when I first tried them. But if you think about herbs the same way you think about other root vegetables, they are fantastic food. Dandelion leaves, when grown in the wild and not contaminated by common yard chemicals, are lovely, tender, bitter herbs. They are a mild and gentle diuretic, packed with chlorophyll, vitamins A, C, D and B-complex. Bitters are very commonly known to be good for digestion, and I think they are delicious, hearty and fulfilling. Especially when they are in a salad with arugula and other fresh spring greens like chickweed and cleavers. Add a dressing of good organic olive oil, organic unfiltered cider vinegar and some garlic salt/pepper and it’s a spring tonic feast in a bowl.

The roots are spectacular too. No really. Each spring, I am reminded that medicinal herbs grow and flourish exactly when our bodies need them. In this case, they are cleansing – thus, spring tonics.  Dandelion roots are a staple for herbal liver cleansers, and generally considered safe for pregnant women.  Be clear about this, that dandelions do for the earth, much what they do for our bodies – they help detoxify toxins, so it’s important to eat them only when harvested from places that are free from common toxins like lawn fertilizers or pesticides – in other words, in an organic environment. My favorite way to eat them is simply peeled like a carrot, salted, and munched fresh. No kidding, they aren’t scary!

Every part of dandelions is valuable for one thing or another. One of my herb teachers used to make dandelion wine every spring. I haven’t done it, but I plan to next spring. I’ll report back about the results. What could possibly go wrong?
And by the way, kids get that dandelions aren’t just weeds. They know to make daisy chains from the flowers and to make a wish while blowing the seeds into the heavens. They just intuitively know things.

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