Taraxacum Officinale - The Teeth of A Revolution
Spring is upon us and many leaves of green have finally emerged. It is a welcome time for those of us who were quite frankly tired of late snows, freezing weather, slush, and especially the dirty muddy dog tracks all through the house!!! Oh, sorry, that's MY plight with Riley. Anyway, now is the time of year that a lot of folks talk about spring cleaning and often one of those items to be cleaned is the body. While I don't agree that the body itself is toxic , I do think that we need support in cleansing our organs and keeping them operating in optimal shape. One of my favorite plants at this time of year is Taraxacum officinale, d
, Tooth of the Lion, aka dandelion.
Dandelions are so complex! The name comes from the French
, or lion's tooth. They are misunderstood as ordinary, regular plants when they really are superheroes! Even worse, they're misconstrued as unwanted pests that take up precious lawn space when actually these yellow wonders are powerhouses of health and vitality and wisdom and ingenuity and tenacity.
If dandelions were people, they would live in the D.
Dandelions are like the sisters and brothers fighting the good fight for justice in Detroit in the wake of gentrification, displacement, and scorched earth politics that aim to eradicate the elderly, poor, and long-time residents of the City in favor of a new hip "lawn" studded with high priced lofts, stadiums, skateboard ramps and dog parks.
Dandelions seem to have quite a bad reputation. Every spring and summer herbicide companies make tons of money selling chemicals designed for their demise. And then the dandelions come back. Despite our ignorance of the power packed into these little spots of sunshine, they keep coming back.
"It’s a “hood flower,” says Patrisse Marie Cullors, an artist, activist, and co-founder of the #BlackLivesMatter movement whose
piece is directed at ending police brutality and prisons. “You try to uproot it and it gets stronger, it grows deeper. That was a powerful image for us: even if you try and beat us and uproot us, we will get stronger, we will survive.” (1)
Rise of the Dandelions
Dandelion Food and Medicine
Now, what else is cool about dandelions is that they are SO available! Now isn't that a nice new spin on the dandelion narrative? Yes, thank you. The entire plant can be used from petal to root as well. But first things first, why? Why would one even want to eat a dandelion?
Checking in with herbalist Matthew Wood, he speaks of Taraxacum officinale as an alternative, or blood purifier. As noted in The Herbal Medicine-Maker's Hand Book by James Green, "dandelion tincture and tea will have a tonic effect on the kidneys, it encourages kidney function, it's a diuretic. It increases the body's potassium. It helps the liver and gallbladder stimulate the healthy flow of bile. It can relieve intestinal gas and poor digestion that is due to insufficient bile. Relieves constipation that is due to sluggish liver activity. Can help eliminate skin eruptions that are due to sluggish liver activity. Relieves difficulty in urinating and/or water retention." And he also notes that it's a blood purifier. Michigan herbalist and friend, Jim McDonald, speaks to their usefulness as a nutritive digestive bitter. There are many, many resources available to research the history, lore, environmental and medicinal benefits of this plant. Here are a few links to get you started:
In my journal, a little Taraxacum task list
The Dandelion Experience - Speaking From My Own
I can personally attest to dandelion's benefits as a diuretic and as a cleansing herb. Let's just say errthang flows and goes with dandelion. :-)
Dandelion leaves and I are developing quite a close relationship. Dandelion leaves, or greens, are bitter and kind of aggressive. If you decide to try dandelion greens as part of your salad, which was my entree into dandeliondom, just add a few leaves, chopped fine, with a variety of other milder, sweet greens. Give your palate a chance to get used to the bitter nuances. After raw in salad, I moved on to including a small amount in any cooked greens, from kale to collards.
If you decide to make them in a saute or simmered, I find that they are a really good contrast to strongly flavored sauces or braising liquids with lots of garlic, red pepper, and...sausages. They're really good with fatty meats.
it's Going Down in the Urban Farmgirl's Kitchen
A few months ago, I came across
that happened to be featured at Greenfield Village here in Dearborn, Michigan. I decided to give a try and it was really delicious. A mix of white beans, potatoes and corn, carrots, celery, onions and fresh herbs really made a very nice soup. I ended up using about one quarter spinach to three quarters dandelion leaves. As a leftover, on day two I added some sliced nitrate-free uncured beef sausage which really complemented the soup well. It was good both ways, with and without the meat.
Dandelion Soup Yumminess
The other tasty surprise I got from my dandelion greens was how well suited they are for making pesto! I was really intrigued
instead of pine nuts or almonds or cashews or whatever you have used to make your pesto. Turns out I *thought* I had pumpkin seeds on hand, irl I had roasted unsalted sunflower seeds so that's what I used. Pesto, slick with olive oil and fragrant with fresh garlic, is a delicious way to savor dandelion greens! I tossed a generous spoonful with some brown rice quinoa spaghetti, fresh spinach, cherry tomatoes, and shrimp. Can I just say, damn that was good?
Damn, that was good!!
On another day, I had a good friend and mentor over for tea. I casually topped a yellow squash and zucchini frittata with some organic ricotta and the dandy-pesto? Swoon. We were both impressed!
Oh yes, a note on availability. Sometimes you're not able to run out in the yard and grab some greens. There may have been pesticide and herbicide spray, doggie doo-dads, car exhaust fumes, or any number of chemical contaminates in the soil nearby. ONLY harvest where you are certain there are no toxic substances wreaking havoc! Don't know of any such place? Have no fear...before I knew of clean wildcrafting spaces, I got my fresh dandelion greens from Meijer. I find that Meijer has great dandelion greens and they're relatively inexpensive so it really is an easy way to add a boost of nutrition and digestive bitters to your diet. They probably have them at other well-stocked grocery stores and fruit and vegetable markets.
I have also obtained dried dandelion leaf and dried dandelion root from the health food store, herb stores such as
, and on-line at
. I picked the two of these up in order to make tea, which is another thing that you can make from dandelions. Now I will tell you, as with the fresh greens, it is a bitter tea. I've seen a lot of videos where folks say it's "kind of bitter". No. Forget that. It. Is. Bitter!! But once you become accustomed to eating and drinking a more varied diet that is inclusive of bitters, it will taste fine to you. But it is bitter. Fresh leaves and roots can be made into tea as well.
So, why would I do that to myself? Why would I endure the bitterness of bitters? Bitter foods aid in digestion and they help the body all the way around. (Check out that link above on Blessed Bitters....really.)
With my dried dandelion root and leaf I also made a tincture for digestive use or for spring cleaning by the dropper-full. I put this up several weeks ago. I went to the grocery store and found a 70 proof white whiskey that had been distilled with orange peels. I thought this would make a really nice combination for a spring tonic so I have that sitting and brewing right now. It will be ready in a couple of weeks.
The most recent dandelion treat I made was a syrup from the flowers. I gathered a little over one hundred flowers, processed and steeped them and boiled the infusion down to a delicious sunny syrup that is SO good! Here is a link to a
I can't wait to try it in some tea or on some oatmeal or pancakes.
I will be collecting more flowers soon and fresh root as well. I'll do another post when I do because there will be a whole new set of drinks, eats, and wellness supports. We still have a lot to learn from the divine dandelion.
I have also had the delicious
of dandelion wine. A friend of mine gifted me a bottle for my birthday last year and it tasted like liquid sunshine. I remember being so impressed with the fact that she and her friends coaxed this delicious brew from dandelion flowers. I'm not ready to try making wine yet but I really, REALLY appreciated that gift! :-)
All of this, wellness to wine, from dandelions. But wait, there's more. In Detroit, the dandelion is downright inspiring! I would be remiss if I didn't shift gears and mention this. This post has to be one of my favorites...when I can combine herbalism and hip-hop! Can I get a big Detroit WHAT UP DOE? for the artists and collaborative team over at Complex Movements!
Beware the Dandelions
As noted above, "[the dandelion is]...a fitting symbol for Detroit, where, for over two decades, city denizens and youths have reactivated ecosystems of change—in a vibrant urban gardens movement and in a system of aesthetic and media hubs where creativity has transformed the way we think, see, and hear. It is a place that feels ancient and futuristic at the same time—home to influential revolutionaries, such as recently deceased centenarian Grace Lee Boggs, and whose long list of sonic pioneers have included Jeff Mills, Juan Atkins, and J Dilla."(2)
"The Detroit-based artist collective, Complex Movement's "...current project, Beware of the Dandelions, is a mobile art installation that functions as a performance, workshop space, and visual arts exhibition. The piece intersects disciplines including: community organizing, design, hip-hop and electronic music, architecture, and theater. The experience occurs inside a 400 square foot polyhedron dome-like pod structure. The performance and generative design are projected onto the surface of the pod to create an immersive visual and sound experience that incorporates science-fiction, projections, songs, and interactive game elements." (3)
Complex Movements engages communities to expand their strategies for organizing around local and trans-local social justice issues. Beware of The Dandelions is premiering through a three city tour to Seattle (Apr/May 2015), Dallas (Nov/Dec 2015), and Detroit (Fall 2016). Original music from Beware of the Dandelions will be released digitally and on vinyl in 2016.
"...change happens through critical connections rather than critical mass." (4)
READ and LEARN MORE:
Quote Excerpts 1, 2, and 3 from:
and 4 from
So, there you have it....beauty, beast, bitter, sweet, and all of the teeth! The lion has no bite without its teeth.
Dandelions are revolutionaries. They have so much more to teach us. And they are everywhere.
WE are everywhere.
Beware the rise of the dandelions!
In peace and health!