9th April 2020

Food / Outdoors / Natasha Lloyd

Forage of The Month: Dandelion [Taraxacum Officinale]

1 3 mins 0

AAs one of the first plants of Spring, young dandelions are currently sprouting everywhere. There are over 10,000 different species and more are being discovered. All are edible. This common plant reaps a whole bunch of incredible benefits including aiding digestion and regulating blood sugar levels.

From root to flower, each part of the plant can be used in a number of different ways. Natasha Lloyd, a Medical Herbalist and our foraging expert, explains their nutritional benefits and suggests a dandelion leaf Spring pesto for you to try.

The Dandelion is identified by its toothed leaf; due to the many different species of Dandelion, the leaf shapes vary but its serrated form is consistent. It is found in many locations and environments throughout Britain, often in fields and even cracks in pavements. It can be harvested at different times of the year, depending on which part of the plant you are wanting to use.

Dandelion has many common names. Two in French, are Dent de Lion, translating as ‘Lion’s Teeth’, referring to the serrated leaf edge. Another, Pis en Lit, translates as ‘Wet the Bed’; this name originates from the fact that the leaves are a mild diuretic. They will increase urine flow, reducing fluid build-up in the body. Orthodox diuretics that are prescribed to help reduce blood pressure -by reducing fluid build-up- decrease the amount of potassium in blood cells. However, Dandelion leaves contain a lot of potassium and therefore there is no need to supplement it. Dandelion is a bitter plant, which is useful for digestion. Bitterness activates the vagus nerve and this in turn releases gastrin, a hormone that helps aid gastric motility. This is why many cultures have apéritifs before a meal.

The root can be used as a caffeine-free, coffee substitute. It’s roasted, steeped in boiling water and strained and actually tastes quite good. The root contains inulin, a pre-biotic which helps pro-biotics work better. It also helps regulate blood sugar levels. The flowers can be eaten too and make a fabulous country wine if it is given 20 months to ferment. A human trial is being conducted in Canada that is showing positive results against leukaemia. Dandelion leaves are a delicious addition to a salad. I like using them as part of a Spring pesto. They have a mild bitterness and sweetness when they are young. As the plant matures and comes into flower, the bitterness of the leaves increases. Now is the perfect time to get outside and find the leaves to add to your food.

A Dandelion Leaf Spring Pesto for you to enjoy can be found here. 

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Natasha Lloyd is a Medical Herbalist and Forager, based in the heart of Cairngorm National Park in Scotland. Natasha has been teaching foraging and herbalism for over 15 years through guided walks, talks and workshops.

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