Sharing our experiences and what we’ve learned about the traditional uses of many “weeds”, is deeply important. Its a way to honor the timeless tradition of passing down knowledge from generation to generation. It is also a way to empower others that are seeking alternatives to modern day convenience.
One of the shining stars on our farm is the dandelion. We can’t wait until our field is still aglow with sunny yellow dandelions, so that we can replenish our stock of dandelion leaf, flowers and roots. Every spring we take full advantage of their presence by harvesting dandelions as soon as the sun dries the morning dew.
There’s a good reason why bees love dandelions. This early spring flower is a nutritional powerhouse.
When it comes to abundant, resilient, nutrition, you can’t do much better than the dandelion. Although generally looked upon as a nuisance weed, the dandelion has a low ecological impact on our planet and causes no real damage to the ecosystem.
In fact, dandelions do a lot of good. They offer an early spring food to our pollinators, and to humans as well. Many of our ancestors were well acquainted with the dandelion, and its time we came to appreciate this plant for all that it provides. In a time where we suffer from food insecurity, we would be well served by getting to know the resilient, edible wild plants that grow around us.
Dandelions also help to support and protect the soil. Their roots help to loosen the soil, the plants protect it and within all of that, they create a healthy soil micro climate for earth worms.
We love to eat dandelion in salads and after a long winter they are perfect for replenishing our energy with iron boosting tea.
Dandelion is a powerhouse of nutrition. Its a rich source of beta-carotene (vitamin A), vitamin C, fiber, potassium, iron, calcium, magnesium, zinc, and phosphorus. It is also a source of B complex vitamins, trace minerals, organic sodium, and vitamin D AND dandelion has more protein than spinach!
A lot of wild greens have an element of bitterness to them and dandelions are no exception. Bitters are essential for optimal digestion, bile production and overall liver health. We need bitters in our diets!
Dandelion is also commonly used in detoxification formulas is well-known and effective natural diuretic. It also helps the body process hormones which can be helpful during adolescence and menopause. It can also assist with recovery from colds & flu and can even help relieve muscle tension. Without a doubt, the dandelion is quite an exceptional plant.
We take full advantage of the abundance of wild super foods like dandelion by infusing them into our skincare regime and consuming them. Local, wild, organic and nutritious – what’s not to love? The versatility of this plant is quite astounding and it is one of the best plants to get to know because of it’s wide spread availability. (Just be sure to harvest from areas that are chemical free).
Have you ever taken the time to smell a dandelion? You really should if you haven’t. The leaves & blossoms have this gorgeous honey scent that really lifts the spirits. I highly recommend getting outside and harvesting dandelions, it’s a wonderful family friendly activity.
Harvesting Dandelions: Blossoms for Herbal Infused Oil
What I’ll use it for: Soap and salves. Dandelion blossom oil is excellent for soothing dry skin and can also alleviate tired muscles and general aches and pains. Perfect for those of us that toil away in the gardens
This is one of the rare times that I use heat with an oil infusion. I usually prefer to slow and gentle approach, but with the dandelion, the double boiler method seems to work better. Dandelion blossoms have water content and don’t dry thoroughly. Often they’ll turn to fluff balls when you try. The double boiler technique will help to evaporate the excess water and as a bonus it if a fast process, you can be using the oil the same day you make it.
Harvesting Dandelions: Dried Leaves
What I’ll use it for: although there are a wide range of uses, I use dried dandelion leaf as an infusion for our Woodland soap. It provides the soap with its gorgeous green color while also infusing it with some of those super food vitamins and minerals. I firmly believe that what you put on your skin matters just as much as what you put into your body. The extra effort we take to infuse our oils with herbs and botanicals gives our products a super charged boots, not to mention the process itself is truly good for the soul.
I also drink dandelion tea on super humid days as it can alleviate Edema (water retention) and I’ll admit, sometimes farming isn’t always glamorous work. As I’ve reached my mid 40’s my ankles have begun to unpleasantly swell up in the humid heat. This can be mighty uncomfortable while working and I am pretty self conscious about it too. Dandelion has been a blessing for helping me to manage this.
Fresh leaves are always best but we live where there can be snow on the ground for half the year so preparing for winter is essential. Once we harvest the dandelion leaves they are thoroughly washed and the excess water is spun out using a salad spinner. When most of the water was removed, I set them out on my herb drying trays. Once these are dry and brittle, they’ll be stored in big airtight glass jars.
Wild Dandelion/Nettle Tea (Iron Booster) Recipe
As someone that suffers from periodic Iron deficiency, Dandelion tea is a valuable part of my home apothecary. Tea is a quick and easy way to utilize the benefits of many wild/garden herbs. This tea is somewhat bitter, and honey makes it far more palatable and extra nutritious.
- 1 Tbsp fresh dandelion
- 1 Tbsp fresh nettle
- 1 Cup boiled water
- Raw honey to taste
Harvesting Dandelions: Dried/Roasted Root
What I’ll use it for: Coffee substitute mixed with Chicory root and herbal tinctures.
I washed the roots thoroughly and scrubbed them to remove all soil, discarding any pieces that were soft or mushy. These are air drying on trays. Tomorrow I’ll chop the roots up and pop them in the oven to slow roast. I’ll store them in airtight glass jars. We only harvested a small amount of root. Its better to wait for fall when the roots are bigger.
The next time you see dandelions go ahead and nibble on the leaves (wash them first of course) and blow a few seeds into the air and make a wish!