Craving those bitters

dandelionAs signs of Spring appear, I begin to crave bitter foods. Our bodies are brilliant, because as the earth awakens; our liver and kidneys begin to work harder as they cleanse our bodies of all the toxins built up during our winter idleness. Bitters aid in digestion. Therefore, it is the perfect time for us to assist our bodies by supporting and nourishing the liver and kidneys while they are working so hard for us. Dandelion and other bitter greens help them in this process. Eating bitters increases hydrochloric acid in the stomach, sending a message to the liver to prepare for digestion, as well as increasing the appetite and preparing the liver to break down fats. The more bitter the better for these functions.

Of course, as the weather starts to warm up, I spend more time outdoors looking for who is trying to break through and reach for the sun after their long winter’s nap. To my excitement, I found Dandelions (Taraxacum officinale) sprouting up all over our lawn. Although, they were very small, their leaves were delicious with a hint of bitterness. Each sunny day, I survey the lawn, picking little leaves and snacking on them. To an observer I must have looked like a rabbit nibbling on greens.

I know for some this may sound crazy, but Dandelions are very exciting to me! They are beautiful and delicious and most of all they announce SPRING is HERE! Some homeowners actually try to eliminate these amazing plants from their backyards with harmful chemicals. The EPA estimates that Americans dump over 90 million pounds of herbicides on their lawns every year to eradicate these lovelies along with other wonderful herbs. Now that is plain crazy in my book! Good thing Dandelions are persistent and tenacious, since they are nearly impossible to eliminate. All they need is a cool summer’s breeze for their seeds to float upon in order to arrive at another pristine lawn.

Not only are these beautiful blossoms a magical contrast against any lush green lawn, they are packed with a whole lot of goodness. To start off, just two fresh-picked leaves provide a day’s supply of vitamin C. Her deep root (which can reach three feet down) draws up tons of minerals. Dandelions are loaded with omega 3s, vitamins A, B, C, and D, potassium and iron and also rich in calcium, protein, phosphorus and magnesium. One leaf can contain 19-31% protein. Check out these numbers: The USDA daily-recommended allowance for calcium is 800 mg. When comparing calcium in other leafy greens ~ 1 cup of Spinach has 102 mg, 1 cup of Kale has 206 mg, and 1 cup of Dandelion has a whopping 4,000 mg. How’s that for a super food and its right out your backdoor! Dandelion roots are a wonderful liver tonic, and since our liver has over five hundred important functions including filtering chemical contamination from our system, I am sure you can agree that it is important to support and tonify it. Along with the liver, Dandelion root also tones your spleen, stomach, pancreas, kidneys, skin, nervous, glandular, digestive, urinary, circulatory, immune and lymphatic systems. What’s not to love!?

As you can see, Dandelions are both a wonderful food source along with being a powerful medicinal herb. And you know how much I love to eat my medicine. The blossoms, leaves, and roots are all edible and nutritious. I love adding the greens and blossoms to my salads and roots to my soups. The roots are sweeter than leaves and flowers are sweeter than roots. The roots tend to be more bitter and diuretic in the spring, and sweeter and starchier after an autumn frost. The roots are most bitter when it is flowering and sweetest after a couple of hard frosts in late autumn and early winter. Dandelion increases circulation and fluid waste elimination in the body, without depleting the body of important nutrients. It is one of the safest diuretics as it tones the kidneys, aiding in elimination while maintaining appropriate potassium levels.

Although, it is generally a safe herb to consume, Dandelion is still a strong diuretic and those with low blood pressure or already excessive urination should avoid using it. Moreover, it is best to avoid if you have active gallstones.

Always remember, when foraging to make sure the area hasn’t been sprayed with any chemicals or visited by the family dog.

All information is shared for educational purposes only and has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.  This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.



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