Images: Elderflower, Dandelion
Contrary to popular belief, dandelions are not just pesky garden weeds – they are one of the most nutrient-dense plants you can eat. Dandelions are full of vitamins C, A, and K, as well as and antioxidants and calcium. They are rich in potassium, giving them a strong diuretic quality as well as making them an excellent blood detoxifier. Dandelions are also noted for their ability to stabilize blood sugar, making them an excellent supplement for diabetics. Over time, people have used dandelion for everything from liver detoxification to managing high blood pressure and lowering cholesterol.
Everything, from the flower all the way down to the roots, is edible – not to mention delicious. The taste of dandelion resembles a slightly bitter green like arugula. You can eat them fresh in salads, cook them on the stove or dry them to enjoy all year around.
You can forage them on your own, you’ll find them almost anywhere from your own garden, to parks and fields. It’s best to gather dandelions in the spring when they are young (before they flower) and again in the autumn. This is due to the flavour of the leaves, the more mature they get the stronger the taste. I try to pick the younger leaves. Remember to forage them in areas you know haven’t been sprayed with fertilizers or weed killers, and wash them before you use them.
You can add the young leaves directly in a salad, or you can blanche them in a pan with some oil, garlic, salt and pepper. If you are like me, and want the benefits of this powerhouses all year around you can dry the leaves (and flowers) and leave in a jar, ready to be added to your smoothie or sprinkle over salads. After washing, leave the leaves on a kitchen cloth in a warm area for a couple of days, depending on the temperature. Once they are dry, you can store them in glass jars. Make sure its airtight and avoid direct sunlight - they keep the nutrients for longer in a cool and dark place.