Like most people, I was never a huge fan of dandelions. I considered them to be an insidious weed, to be purged whenever possible. A couple of years ago I was driving with my kids and we passed a big field of bright yellow dandelions. My daughter looked at the field and commented that the flowers were beautiful. This opened up my perspective, and for the first time I actually looked at the dandelions as something other than a nuisance. I began to appreciate them for the bright, cheerful flowers that they are.
My appreciation for these sunny little flowers has grown exponentially as I learn more about their health benefits. The information below was compiled from Healing with the Herbs of Life by Lesley Tierra and The Boreal Herbal: Wild Food and Medicine Plants of the North by Beverley Gray, two of my favourite resource books for all things herbal!
Dandelion Root supports digestion and liver health, and is a wonderful blood purifier. It contains digestive and bitter properties, is anti-inflammatory, and can be beneficial for cholesterol and high blood pressure issues. Roots are high in sodium and potassium, and young roots can be used in much the same way as any other root vegetable. Dandelion roots works well in vinegar infusions, and can be used roasted, dried and powdered as an excellent coffee substitute. We are big fans of Dandy Blend!
Dandelion Leaf acts as a natural diuretic, which helps to support and detoxify the kidneys. While lots of other diuretics can strip the body of potassium, dandelion leaf contains high levels of this important mineral, which helps prevent this loss. Dandelion leaves are a wonderful addition to fresh salads, as they are high in calcium and Vitamin C. Dandelion leaf is also wonderful dried and prepared as a tea.
Dandelion Flowers can be used in a facial steam to clear clogged pores. Like all other parts of the dandelion, there is some argument that flowers can also help support liver function and contain naturally occurring vitamin D.
Harvesting Tips Dandelions from heavily sprayed lawns or located by the roadside, filled with car exhaust and possible animal pee is no fun. When I harvested these flowers with my kids I was careful to pick sections of the park that were away from the base of a tree or fence. We also looked carefully at the leaves to make sure they were not brown at the edges - a surefire sign that they had been well watered by an animal visitor!
In a recent herbal apprenticeship class we made several herbal preparations, one of which was a Sunshine Pancake recipe using dandelion flowers. In class we used a pre-mixed whole wheat flour blend, but I was tempted to try my hand at coming up with a gluten free interpretation. I recently attended a health show here in Victoria, and found The New Gluten-Free Recipes, Ingredients, Tools & Techniques by LIsa Diamond and Areli Hermanson. It is a wonderful book that reviews all aspects of gluten free baking in detail. It could almost be called a chemistry textbook on baking gluten free! The recipe below is my vegan interpretation of the Basic Buttermilk Pancake Recipe from the cookbook, with the addition of dandelion flowers inspired by Betty Norton's Sunshine Pancakes.
Dandelion Flower Pancakes
2/3 cup brown rice flour
1/2 c sorghum flour
1/4 cup millet flour
6 Tbsp quinoa flour
2 Tbsp chickpea flour
2 Tbsp almond meal
2 Tbsp tapioca starch
2 Tbsp psillium husk
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp Himalayan or sea salt
1/8 cup coconut sugar
2 tbsp coconut oil
1 1/2 tsp agar powder
1 chia "egg" (see directions below)
1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 cups almond milk (separated)
1 cup fresh dandelion flowers
Grind 1 Tbsp chia and add it to 1/4 cup warm water. Whisk to combine and let this mixture sit for 15 - 20 minutes, until it forms a gel.
Add 1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar to a 1 cup measure. Add almond milk until you have 1 cup total liquid. Let this mixture sit for 10 minutes until it starts to curdle & thicken.
Combine brown rice, sorghum, millet, quinoa and chickpea flour with almond meal, tapioca starch, psillium husk, baking powder, baking soda and Himalayan salt in a large mixing bowl, and stir to combine.
Add coconut sugar, coconut oil, agar powder, chia "egg", vegan buttermilk, and almond milk to a high speed blender and process until smooth.
Add dandelion flowers to dry ingredients and stir to combine. Add wet ingredients and stir until no lumps remain.
Heat a cast iron skillet over medium heat, and scoop pancake mixture onto the pan. Grill pancakes until they are fully cooked and lightly brown on both sides.
Citrus and Dandelion Flower Syrup
1 cup honey (maple syrup or coconut syrup would work too!)
1 organic orange, juiced
1 tsp organic orange zest
1 tsp fresh grated turmeric
1/2 cup fresh dandelion flowers
1/2 tsp camu camu powder
Add honey to a small saucepan, and warm over medium/low heat until liquid.
Add orange juice, orange zest, turmeric and dandelion flowers and let simmer for 5 minutes.
Remove from heat, add camu camu powder and whisk to combine.
Serve immediately. Leftover syrup can be kept in the fridge.