Archive for Dandelion

Eat your lawn: wild greens salad.

yardsalad.JPG

Why mow it when you can eat it?

Today I wandered around our yard with a basket and came back with a salad.

It had chickweed greens and flowers, dandelion greens, bittercress greens and flowers, creasy greens, violet leaves, and sorrel in it. Chickweed and violet are mild and moist, peppergrass and creasy greens are spicy with a hint of bitterness, dandelion leaves (before the flowers bloom) are pleasantly bitter, and sorrel is distinctly sour.

The boy thought it was too many flavors in one salad, but to me it just tasted like today: riotous spring!

Hint: If you want to encourage more edible (and medicinal) weeds in your yard, dig up a bit here and there. Lots of tasty plants like to grow on disturbed ground.

Comments (11)

Local herbalism: using the plants in the dooryard.

When I told the gentleman who installed our satellite internet that I’m an herbalist, he started singing the praises of Tahitian Noni Juice. Right. I told him I was sure the Noni Juice was very nice, but there were ten different just-as-useful herbs growing right by his feet in my backyard, and he could have them all for free.

See, exotic herbs with hyped-up marketing campaigns just don’t excite me. Who knows exactly what’s in those bottles anyway? And why should I give my money to big, sketchy companies when my backyard supplies just about all the herbs I could ever need?

Today I decided to go outside and make a list of the useful herbs that are growing wild right now within 20 feet of my house. The list was even longer than I thought: more than thirty very useful plants.

Here they are, with a use or two for each to give you an idea of what they’re good for. Keep in mind that many blogposts (books, even!) could be written on every one of these plants, so there is necessarily a lot left out. I just wrote the first thing that came to my mind about each one.

All Heal (Prunella vulgaris): incredible wound-healer and alterative.
Aster (Symphyotrichum spp.): valuable diaphoretic, nervine.
Black Walnut (Juglans nigra): alterative, thyroid support, skin fungus.
Blackberry (Rubus spp.): an astringent when you need it.
Burdock (Arctium lappa): liver and kidney soother, resolves scaly skin.
Catnip (Nepeta cataria): sleep for babies, stomach-calmer.
Celandine (Chelidonium majus): liver and lymphatic stimulant.
Cheeses (Malva rotundifolia): useful mucilage-laden mallow, soothes everything.
Chickweed (Stellaria media): gentle, soothing alterative and lymphatic.
Chicory (Cichorium intybus): classic bitter digestive.
Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale): elimination balancer, alterative, minerals.
Goldenrod (Solidago spp.): good for sneezing allergies, digestive and urinary soother.
Ground Ivy (Glechoma hederacea): alterative, depurative.
Hollyhock (Alcea rosea): another wonderful, soothing mallow.
Lobelia (Lobelia inflata): antispasmodic of the first order.
Moth Mullein (Verbascum blattaria): possible lymphatic.
Peppergrass (Lepidium virginicum): respiratory stimulant.
Plantains (Plantago major & P. lanceolata): stings, wound healing (inside and out).
Pokeweed (Phytolacca americana): strong lymphatic.
Queen Anne’s Lace (Daucus carota): kidney stones, thyroid, and birth control too!
Red Clover (Trifolium pratense): gentle lymphatic, alterative.
Scarlet Pimpernel (Anagallis arvensis): traditionally used for mania!
Sheep Sorrel (Rumex acetosella): traditional cancer herb, good vitamin c in salad.
Spiny Sow Thistle (Sonchus asper): cooling digestive tonic.
Strawberry (Fragaria spp.): gentle astringent, baby diarrhea.
Thistles (Cirsium spp.): liver and digestive tonic.
Violet (Viola sororia): so cooling, soothing, and comforting.
White Deadnettle (Lamium album): astringent, good for heavy menstrual bleeding.
White Vervain (Verbena urticifolia): bitter nervine.
Wood Sorrel (Oxalis acetosella): tasty source of vitamin c, heals old wounds.
Yarrow (Achillea millefolium): sharp cuts, internal healing, alterative.
Yellow Dock (Rumex crispus): liver stimulant, laxative.

Well, not a bad materia medica, is it? Most of these plants grow in cities, too. Medicine all around, if you look for it. (Big herb companies don’t need your money anyway.)

A side note: I’m a space cadet. After I reminded everyone else about this blog party, I forgot about it myself until I saw Kiva’s post. Silly, I know.

What should our next blog party be? I promise to participate on time!

Comments (37)

Dandelion recipes: Italian-style greens.

Dandelion Greens

Simple greens, Italian-style.

My favorite way to eat dandelions.

Here’s how to do it:

Pick dandelion greens. Stick to plants that are not blooming if you don’t want them to be too bitter. Sturdy kitchen scissors are great for picking greens. (You can also use garden or farm-grown dandelion greens—they’ll be bigger and maybe a bit less bitter, but you won’t have the fun of snipping your lawn with scissors!)

Wash dandelion greens. Soak them in a bowl of water, fish them out, and repeat with clean water until you don’t find any dirt on the bottom of the bowl.

Heat a generous amount of olive oil in a skillet. You could also use lard or schmaltz. Goose fat is especially good.

Saute the greens in the oil. Cook them until they’re as soft as you like. You may want to put a lid on the pan and steam them for a bit if they’re tough.

Salt the greens to taste. Use good salt if you have it—I like unrefined sea salt.

Chop a bunch of garlic. How much depends on how much you like garlic.

Stir the garlic into the greens. I like to leave it basically raw, but you can keep cooking it for a minute or two if you like.

Serve it forth, as they say in the old cookbooks.

Comments (86)

Dandelion recipes: breakfast.

Dandelion fritters.So dandelion week has turned into dandelion month, and I’m afraid I still won’t have time to try all the dandelion concoctions I’ve been thinking about. (Thank my long-suffering boyfriend. He likely won’t want to see another dandelion for quite some time.)

Today it’s a full dandelion breakfast: Dandelion fritters with dandelion syrup. Floral and joyful, it tastes exactly like spring!

For the syrup, I used Henriette’s method. The flavor is incredibly complex—floral and honeylike, with hints of caramel and fresh green leaves. Amazing. As soon as I can, I plan to make a nice big batch to freeze.

For the fritters, I made a basic pancake batter (a cup of flour, a teaspoon of baking powder, an egg, a cup of milk, a couple of tablespoons melted butter, and a pinch of salt) with enough extra milk added to make it about as thin as heavy cream. Then I added a nice pile of yellow dandelion fluff*—about a cup or a little more. I cooked the fritters on a hot buttered griddle just like pancakes.

*By “yellow dandelion fluff” I mean the yellow parts of dandelion blossoms, separated from the green bits and fluffed up a bit to avoid clumping. Sound like too much trouble? I think you can get away with including a bit of green, but be sure to pinch off the stem end of each blossom, or you might get some bitterness in your fritters.

Comments (5)

Dandelion week: anatomy of the lion’s tooth.

dandelion tinctures

Dandelion tinctures, from left to right: root, leaf, flower.

So clearly dandelion is not dandelion is not dandelion.

Dandelion Root

Taste: earthy-sweet-bitter.

Temperature: cool.

Affinity: liver, gallbladder, digestion.

Action: nourishing, tonic.

Dandelion Leaf

Taste: fresh-salty-bitter.

Temperature: cold.

Affinity: kidneys, bladder, blood.

Action: stimulating, draining.

Dandelion Flower

Taste: bright-honey-sweet.

Temperature: neutral or slightly cool.

Affinity: heart, mind.

Action: comforting, brightening.

Comments (11)

Dandelion week: the bite of the lion’s tooth.

Like I said yesterday, dandelion’s old common name is “pissabed.” So we know it’s had a long and intimate relationship with the human urinary tract. But dandelion is so much more than a simple diuretic.

Nicholas Culpeper was on the right track in his 1653 Herbal (1814 edition):

It is of an opening and cleansing quality, and therefore very effectual for the obstructions of the liver, gall and spleen, and the diseases that arise from them . . . it opens the passages of the urine in both young and old; powerfully cleanses imposthumes and inward ulcers in the urinary passage, and by its drying and temperate quality doth afterwards heal them.

So my favorite technical word for dandelion is not diuretic but “deobstruent”: Dandelion opens what is blocked.

Now, don’t go running around giving dandelion to everyone who feels sluggish, stuck, or constipated—a lot of those people are “cold” or depleted, and dandelion is for sluggishness associated with heat and excess (the Chinese say “fire poison”). Dandelion is especially good for heat associated with dampness or “bogginess”—think Mississippi Delta on an August evening.

So dandelion opens what is blocked, cools what is irritated, and drains what is soggy.

But don’t forget that dandelion is not dandelion is not dandelion. Each part—root, leaf, and flower—works differently. (Hint: This is tomorrow’s topic.)

Comments

Dandelion week: history of the little lion’s tooth.

Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) has been used medicinally for as long as people have bothered to write about such things. It might be native to the Middle East (but no one’s really sure) and it’s traveled to just about every corner of the temperate world by now.

Maude Grieve says in her Modern Herbal:

The name of the genus, Taraxacum, is derived from the Greek taraxos (disorder), and akos (remedy), on account of the curative action of the plant.

Now, Mrs. Grieve’s etymology is poetic for an herbalist, but the Oxford English Dictionary disagrees:

Medieval Latin from Arabic, ultimately Persian. The Synonymia Arabo-Latina of Gerard of Cremona (died 1189) has ‘Tarasacon, species cichorei’. This appears to have been a corruption or misreading of the Arabic name tarakhshaqoq or tarkhshaqoq, itself according to the Burhan-i-Kati (native Persian lexicon), originally an arabicized form of the Persian talkh chakok ‘bitter herb’.

Dandelion is of course from the French “lion’s tooth” (dent de lion), but these days the French just call it pissenlit, “piss-the-bed”—which also happens to be an old-time English name for the plant. In 1565 John Hall wrote in his Courte of Vertu, “Lyons tooth, That Chyldren call Pysbed.” (OED entry for pissabed.)

Pissabed. Remember that. It’s a pretty good first clue to how dandelion works.

Comments (1)

Dandelion week.

dandelionIt’s dandelion week here in the Herbwife’s Kitchen. That is to say, it’s spring!

I’m scouring the yard for lovely little lion’s teeth, trying to get them before my housemate’s lawnmower does.

Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) is one of my favorite plants. It’s incredibly versatile. Each part—flower, leaf, root—has totally different properties, and each can be prepared in so many different ways.

This week, in celebration of spring, I’m going to make dandelion every way I can think of (tinctures, infusions, food of all sorts), and write about the highlights here.

Comments (8)