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Dandelion


Dandelions (Taraxacum officinale) are everywhere now. Though most people see them as a pernicious weed, they are one of the most useful wild plants we have. Every part of the dandelion can be used. They are full of vitamins A, B, C, and D, as well as minerals, such as iron, potassium, and zinc. Pick the leaves in early spring for eating, the older leaves in summer for teas, and for medicinal purposes at any time. Gather the roots during the spring or autumn for dandelion coffee, and in summer for medicinal purposes.

Young dandelion leaves can be used in salads, sandwiches or cooked like spinach. The full-grown leaves should not be used, as they are too bitter, but the young leaves, especially if blanched (put an upturned flower pot over them when they start to come through), are excellent. You can just lay the tender leaves between slices of bread and butter and sprinkle with salt, pepper and lemon juice.  The leaves should always be torn to pieces, rather than cut, in order to keep the flavour. A simple vegetable soup may also be made with the leaves.

Dandelion leaf is a diuretic which can be used without the consequent loss of potassium of orthodox drugs. This is shown by some of its folk names - piss-a-bed, stink Davie, wet-a-bed, mess-a-bed, pissimire, pittle bed and wet-weed. It stimulates the kidneys and can be used for water retention and is helpful in treating urinary tract infections. For rheumatism and arthritis take an infusion of the leaves to help the joints and eventually remove acid deposits. Pour 1 pint boiling water on 2 oz leaves. Take 3 times a day. Preliminary studies suggest that dandelion may help normalize blood sugar levels and lower total cholesterol and triglycerides while raising HDL (good) cholesterol. Diabetics should use dandelions cautiously, and always check their sugar levels carefully.


The flowers are used to make a country wine, and the traditional day to pick them is St George’s Day, 23 April. St. George may well be a Christian incarnation of a much earlier deity who overcame the dragon of winter and ushered in the summer around Beltane, while a twin deity would have brought in the winter. Dandelion wine is a suitable drink for the Beltane festivities.




DANDELION WINE

3 pt. dandelion flowers (when lightly pressed down)

2.5 lb. sugar

2 oranges

Yeast

½ gallon boiling water

2 pt. warm water

Collect the flowers on a sunny day and remove the green stalks. Place in a fermentation bin and pour on the boiling water. Leave for 2 - 3 days and then strain into a demi-jon. Dissolve the sugar in the warm water. Start the yeast off separately. Add all to the demi-jon and top up if necessary with lukewarm water. Add the grated juice and rind of the oranges. Fit an airlock and leave until fermentation is complete. Rack off into a clean demi-jon and leave for at least 12 months.


Dandelion flower has antioxidant properties and may also help improve the immune system. Make a soothing oil of the flowers by macerating them in oil in a jar on a sunny windowsill for two weeks before straining, or use them in creams and washes for large pores, age spots, blemishes, sunburn and chapped skin.


In Wales, they used to grate or chop up dandelion roots, two years old, and mix them with the leaves in salad. The root can be roasted and ground as a substitute for coffee. They are cleaned, then dried by artificial heat, and slightly slow roasted till they are brown, then ground ready for use. The roots are taken up in the autumn, being then most fitted for this purpose. Herbalists use dandelion root to detoxify the liver and gallbladder. Put 2 - 3 teaspoons of the root into 1 cup of water. Boil and simmer gently for 15 minutes. Drink 3 times a day. The roots and leaves may help to prevent gallstones and the leaf is reputed to help dissolve already formed gallstones. The root of the dandelion plant may act as a mild laxative and has been used to improve digestion. Preliminary research suggests that dandelion may help improve liver and gallbladder function.


The milky white sap from the stem is said to treat warts – simply squeeze some onto the wart for several times a day for a couple of weeks.