April 18, 2013

The Dandelion- Beauty, Love & Health


With Spring here, one of my favorite weeds starts going wild, the dandelion.  The pleasure I get from this…
…far outweighs my annoyance with the yellow flowers trying to take over my lawn.
Yesterday afternoon, I got the sweetest knock on my office door.  I looked outside to see Christian (5) with a bouquet for me.
Like so many weeds & wildflowers, the smell of dandelions instantly brings me back to my childhood.  It makes me so happy to watch my boys enjoying the nature around them and having fun with plants & flowers & yes, of course, weeds.  Even the baby has fun with them…
{Louie, 11 months}
Christian made him a pile to play with and he loved throwing them around on the patio last night.
Justin (3) below, hanging out in my flip flops with a dandelion:
I’m not sure there’s much that makes me happier than getting “flowers” from my little guys.
Dandelions also have medicinal properties and can be eaten.
Here’s some info I found on the LeafLady about it:
“Suppose your doctor tells you, on your next visit, that he has just discovered a miracle drug which, when eaten as a part of   your daily diet or taken as a beverage, could, depending on the peculiarities of your body chemistry: prevent or cure liver diseases, such as hepatitis or jaundice; act as a tonic and gentle diuretic to purify your blood, cleanse your system, dissolve kidney stones, and otherwise improve gastro-intestinal health; assist in weight reduction; cleanse your skin and eliminate acne; improve your bowel function, working equally well to relieve both constipation and diarrhea; prevent or lower high blood pressure; prevent or cure anemia; lower your serum cholesterol by as much as half; eliminate or drastically reduce acid indigestion and gas buildup by cutting the heaviness of fatty foods; prevent or cure various forms of cancer; prevent or control diabetes mellitus; and, at the same time, have no negative side effects and selectively act on only what ails you. If he gave you a prescription for this miracle medicine, would you use it religiously at first to solve whatever the problem is and then consistently for preventative body maintenance?

All the above curative functions, and more, have been attributed to one plant known to everyone, Taraxacum officinale, which means the “Official Remedy for Disorders.” We call it the common dandelion. It is so well respected, in fact, that it appears in the U.S. National Formulatory, and in the Pharmacopeias of Hungary, Poland, Switzerland, and the Soviet Union. It is one of the top 6 herbs in the Chinese herbal medicine chest.

According to the USDA Bulletin #8, “Composition of Foods” (Haytowitz and Matthews 1984), dandelions rank in the top 4 green vegetables in overall nutritional value.” 

It can be drunk as a tea but at home, we eat the leaves in salads, which are really bitter and take some getting used to.  I can’t explain it, but it’s the type of food that you can really feel is having an impact on your digestion.  (Like mint tea or tomatoes.)  When I eat dandelion salad, I almost feel hungrier afterwards & feel like it’s kicking my metabolism into gear.  (This is where my family usually rolls their eyes at me with the “That’s just Lauren” crazy look, but I can honestly feel that it’s good for my body.)  While the claims made on the LeafLady are pretty amazing and I’m sure it wouldn’t work to that extreme for most people, I do strongly believe in dandelion’s health benefits.
The first time I made it at dinner, my husband literally said “This is disgusting.”  (…After all of the training of trying to get our kids to say, “I’m not really a fan of this” when they try a food they don’t like.  Go daddy!! 😉
But, I’m more of the “You’ll get used to it” type of person, so I kept making it.  Now, he honestly loves it and it’s almost weird.  It’s definitely an acquired taste, so if you do try it, be ready to try it more than once.
Because it’s so bitter, I HAVE to have our Maestranzi Oil & Vinegar dressing:
Fillipo Berio Olive Oil (a pretty good amount)
Balsamic Vinegar (only a little)
Salt & Pepper- more than you think… The mixture should taste salty
Onions- Sliced very thin so they get all sogged up with the dressing
Toss the dressing with the onions & let sit for at least 5 mins.  Then, toss in your dandelion greens and FOR REAL- let them sit for at least 30 mins, if not more, so that they really absorb the salty-oniony oil.  This takes out a lot of the bitterness.
If it doesn’t sit a while, the salad will pretty much just be bad.
Then I add in any extras I’m in the mood for- shredded parmesan – ALWAYS
and then things like scallions or walnuts or tomatoes… or whatever else floats your boat.
{Image from Tammy’s Kitchen with a recipe for dandelion salad -i haven’t tried it- here}
…So, with all of this about picking & eating and loving dandelions, I’m off to work on a new textile design.  Wish me luck!!

Hope you have a great day and are enjoying Spring!!  Let me know if you have any good recipes for dandelion salad!!  (I tried one at a restaurant once with LEMON!! OMGoodness!!!!!)

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