The Spring, Summer and Fall of a Dandelion


By Lisa Caccamise

Spring is a beautiful season with life blooming all over. Vibrant greens sprouting on the ground, tiny buds on the trees and colorful flowers springing up all over. Did you know that most of the cold tolerant flowers are edible such as pansies, petunias and, oh yea, dandelion? I know, I know, but dandelion is a weed. Well, it’s the give and take of all this beauty around us as with beauty comes the weeds. But to a forager, the beauty is indeed beautiful, but the weeds are even more appealing. The dandelion is one of many examples.

Did you know that every part of the Dandelion plant is edible? Flowers, leaves and root. Dandelion is a rich source of vitamins A, B complex, C, and D, more beta-carotene than carrots and more iron and calcium than spinach as well as tons of potassium, and zinc. Medicinally, the plant is used as a diuretic, producing urine to eliminate toxins from the body, curing mild stomach aches and acts as an inflammatory. Hence the prescription to eat your dandelion greens in spring for a perfect body cleanse as dandelion is a powerful diuretic but does not deplete the body of potassium. The beauty of this plant is now increasing, isn’t it. This is one hearty little plant, ask any frustrated gardner. But here’s another fact, the plants give off a ethylene gas which actually accelerates the ripening process of crops, fruit, shrubs and trees. Try this little trick. Want peaches, tomatoes or avocados you purchase from the market to ripen quickly? Place some dandelion (leaves or flowers) in a paper bag with the fruit on the counter overnight and it will indeed cause the fruit to ripen much more quickly then just putting them in the paper bag alone. Better yet, make an infusion of the leaves and root and water your plants with it as a natural fertilizer.

A grassy field in the heat of summer is quite a lovely site with sunny yellow flowers popping up. Dandelion’s solitary, bright yellow flowers open with the sun in the morning and close in the evening or during overcast, cloudy weather. The deeply notched leaves are shiny and hairless and funnel the rain to the root making the plant very drought tolerant. Collect the flowers from an open field on a sunny day and bring home some sunshine to put into simple syrups or make into dandelion wine.

This is a plant that gives and gives and gives some more. In the fall, the roots are ready to harvest as they have grown significantly during spring and summer giving life to the plant that will now start to go dormant for the long winter months. Harvest the roots of the plant with a little elbow grease, as the tap roots are fleshy and can be up to 10” long, and make delicious dandelion coffee! Dry the roots well and grind in a coffee grinder. Keep them in your winter storage medicinal cabinet as the roots store potassium and calcium, which are very valuable in curing a number of disorders and illnesses including constipation, inflammatory skin conditions, joint pain, eczema, liver dysfunction and conditions such as hepatitis and jaundice. 

So this year, instead of trying to get rid of what most people believe is a “problem” why not harvest them and enjoy the benefits?

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