Springtime is when our bodies want to detox from winter’s stagnation, heavy foods, and particularly this last winter, excess stress. Happily, the spring landscape is flush with medicinal bitter herbs to help us with this seasonal clean out. My favorite is the dandelion.
Bitter herbs, in general, detoxify the body, tone organs, and help alleviate skin ailments. Dandelions, in particular, are an amazing hero food; edible from the blossom to the root. They are packed with antioxidants, aid in digestion as a bile stimulant, and are a powerful kidney and liver detox. Unlike many diuretics, they are non-potassium wasting – meaning they don’t deplete our mineral and electrolyte stores. Additionally, they are higher in iron than spinach, have more beta-carotene than carrots, provide lots of zinc, potassium, magnesium, calcium, and vitamins B, C, D, and E. There are many ways to ingest them.
Fresh root: Simmer (~1TB) for 1 min, let steep for about ½ hr
Dried root: Boil ~1tsp in about a quart of water for 5-10 min
Dry flowers: Pour boiling water over ~1TB, steep ~5-10 min for a vit D boosting tea in the winter
If desired, you can toss fresh leaves, flowers, stems in at the end of these. You can also just use fresh leaves, flowers, and stems as you would a loose-leaf tea.
Eat fresh young leaves in salads, juice, steamed, or toss into soups
Fun nutrient dense treat
Dry, roast, and grind roots for a detox coffee substitute or a delicious flavor to add to homemade ice cream, smoothies, and the like
Harvesting dandelions is a brilliant entry point to wildcrafting. They are an extremely abundant plant, so over harvesting is not a worry, and they have no poisonous look-alikes. Please do be mindful about potential human contaminants where you harvest. Avoid collecting any wild foods from areas that might be contaminated by herbicides, agricultural or industrial run-off, or car exhaust. If you have a lawn, consider holding off on the herbicides and reconsider your dandelion inhabitants as food, medicine, and a cheery splash of spring color.