The weather has been precarious in California and so I’ve been a bit reluctant to plant tender greens lest they succumb to another cold weather front. What has been popping up throughout my bare garden beds are dandelions. As a Landscape Designer I am constantly asked for remedies from my clients to destroy these pesky plants and I have always held some reluctance to do so as I found them wildly beautiful and their dogs or cats seemed to gravitate to these “weeds” on numerous occasions. I felt there must be some use for these plants and I did some research to see what could possibly be the advantages of these “weeds”. To my delight, what I found was that all parts of the dandelion are edible, have medicinal properties and a range of culinary uses and they are also one of the top 6 herbs used in Chinese Medicine.
Here are some interesting tit-bits:
1) Dandelions have been used throughout the decades as a liver tonic and diuretic and the roots contain inulin and levulin which may help balance blood sugar. A study published in the August 2009 issue of the “Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine” found that dandelion greens caused significant increase in urine output in the 5-hour periods after consumption after two doses spaced 24 hours apart.
2) 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.
3) A study published in the May 2008 issue of the “International Journal of Oncology” found that dandelion leaf extract, but not extracts of dandelion flower or root, decreased growth in tissue cultures of breast cancer cells. Dandelion leaf extract also blocked the spread of prostate cancer in the study. Researchers concluded that dandelion leaf extract may offer potential benefits as anti-cancer agents.
4) Dandelion roots contain taraxacin, a bitter glycoside, which has been known to stimulate digestion. Also dandelion roots can be eaten raw, steamed or even dried, roasted and ground into a coffee substitute.
5) Dandelion flowers can be added to salads, made into jellies or added to baked goods. Yum! The leaves of young plants can be eaten raw and are rich in potassium, antioxidants and Vitamins A, C and D and micronutrients such as copper, cobalt, zinc, boron, and molybdenum. Larger plants tend to be tougher and more bitter and may be more enjoyed if they are steamed or sautéed.
As I sit and eat these fresh dandelion greens from the garden, I find they have a mild, pleasant and slightly bitter flavor and think of all the nutrients they are providing for my body… effortlessly. So when I look at dandelions I now have an even greater appreciation for these guests and welcome them as a friendly visitor to an edible landscape rather than as public enemy number one. Let’s allow nature to help us garden for better nutrition. Enjoy!
For Landscape Design assistance, contact Denise Buchanan at Sacred Garden Designs. www.sacredgardendesigns.com
Important notice: Our commentary presented here is not intended to diagnose any disease or condition or prescribe any treatment. It is offered as information on the delights of plants and gardening. Maintenance and promotion of good health is to be done in cooperation with a licensed medical practitioner.