Simplify Your Body
“But a weed is simply a plant that wants to grow where people want something else. In blaming nature, people mistake the culprit. Weeds are people’s idea, not nature’s.” – Author Unknown
Miriam-Webster defines a weed as:
a (1) : a plant that is not valued where it is growing and is usually of vigorous growth; especially : one that tends to overgrow or choke out more desirable plants (2) : a weedy growth of plants
The notion of “weeds” was never something that resonated with me. To my 4 year old self dandelions were cheerful yellow flowers and fluffy, white wishing balls. Chicory was sturdy and hard to pick, but such a pretty purple. Queen Anne’s lace was delicate, white snowflake flowers that were excellent for dying petals with food coloring. Little violets were tiny, purple faces peeking out of the long blades of grass. To a child in the peak of springtime, there is no such thing as weeds. This is because the title of “weed” is something created by modern society, usually because we have been conditioned to regard weeds as ugly or bad. I wonder how surprised you would be to learn that a large percentage of the things most people consider weeds; are some of the best, most nutritional foods and medicines out there.
Consider the Dandelion:
Dandelions are one of the most nutritional greens you can eat.
Weren’t expecting that were you??
9% of dietary fiber,
19% of vitamin B-6 (pyridoxine),
20% of Riboflavin,
58% of vitamin C,
338% of vitamin A,
649% of vitamin K,
39% of iron and
19% of calcium.
Packed full of anti-oxidants and minerals like potassium, calcium, manganese, iron, and magnesium the dandelion is bursting at the seams with nutritional value. The sad thing is that while the dandelion is eaten and enjoyed all over the world, we here in the US tend to regard them as pesky weeds. Now to really blow your mind….. Consider this… dandelion grows abundantly all over the USA; which means that an excellent and delicious source of food and nutrition is growing all around you and ready for the picking….for FREE. Not to mention you can eat all parts of it! Don’t get the wrong idea; I’m not just talking salads. I’m talking:
Sautéed Greens – Which can be used as is or as an accent with millions of dishes
These are just a few examples, but you get the idea. The most common weed in the USA is a versatile, delicious, gourmet, and nutritious green.
Note: Make sure you know where you get your “weeds” I don’t recommend eating greens from lawns that are sprayed with pesticides or other chemicals (Chemical based fertilizers, etc..). Keep it simple 😉 We’re looking for all natural here!
Just to give you an idea…….
Basic Sautéed Dandelion Greens:
(I will try to get some actual pictures uploaded for you! But for now the process is extremely simple to follow 🙂 )
Dandelion greens CAN be eaten raw, however, they taste best when picked early in Spring before flowering because the leaves get bitter as they age. Though they can be enjoyed all summer, most people prefer at least lightly steaming or sautéing them to release the bitter flavor (this goes away when lightly cooked), but feel free to try them both ways and see what your taste buds prefer!
Step 1: Pick the desired amount of dandelion leaves. Younger leaves will be more tender and less bitter. If you are comfortable identifying dandelions without the flowers, then pick the leaves before the plant flowers. These leaves will be sweeter.
Step 2: Wash! Give them a good cold water bath. If you so desire you can add a bit of vinegar to the water for extra cleaning potency; just be sure to rinse well.
Step 3: Pick your oil of choice! Olive Oil is an easy one that most people have in their pantry, but Grape Seed Oil, etc…. can also be used.
Step 4: The trick now is to not cook them too long. You don’t want to cook the nutrients out of them. You’re just trying to blanch them enough to get the bitter taste out. Keep the heat at a medium temperature and toss them in the skillet. Keep an eye on them and make sure they don’t cook to long. You don’t want them soggy, you just want lightly cooked leaves.
Step 5: This is the creative part and it is entirely up to you! You can eat them as is, use them to compliment another dish, add some spices or maybe some pine nuts? There really are a lot of options here, and it’s a very easy dish. The most important part is to not over cook, you want to nutrients in tact.
For more cooking ideas, the Huffington Post has a great article with lots of Dandelion ideas – Dandelion Recipes.
That’s a good bit of useful information, though we would be remiss if we didn’t discuss the medicinal properties of this yellow and green beauty. That’s right; this “weed” has a strong healing factor as well. But before I get into that, let me touch briefly on the realm of medicinal plants…..
First and foremost, food and nutrition is all about health. Likewise, medicine and health are all about nutrition. We literally ARE what we eat, as what we eat is broken down by our bodies into the raw materials of everything it needs to grow, rebuild, purify, or heal itself. The human body can tolerate an insane amount of abuse, but it can also heal an insane amount of damage. All it needs is the ammo to do so and that ammo comes mostly from what we eat. This understanding is largely ignored in today’s modern healthcare. We have a healthcare system that pays little attention to food, and food industries that pay little attention to health. But that’s another can of worms for another day.
A plant is regarded as medicinal when its nutritive properties aid the body in fighting its own battles, or when it contains substances that help speed the process of healing, usually on some specific level. Again, the body already knows how to fight sickness; it just needs the bullets to get it done. That’s where our partnership with plants comes in.
So, the humble dandelion not only has enormous nutritional value for the body to build and repair with, but it has some very specific properties that lend itself to healing as well.
As a medicinal plant, the dandelion’s claim to fame is in its diuretic properties. In a strict sense, a diuretic plant is one that will help you to pee. For this reason the dandelion is also known in France as the “pissenlit.” Not exactly the most glamorous name, as I tend to prefer NOT to think of my yard as a golden field of pee during this plant’s peak bloom. So I’m sticking with dandelions. Yes…. tiny, golden lion’s manes…… that help you pee. By the way, eating dandelions won’t make you wet the bed at night. Anyway, back to business. The term diuretic is often ascribed to any herb that works at balancing, toning or healing the kidneys and/or urinary system. One special attribute that increases this plant’s effectiveness as a diuretic comes with its extremely high potassium content. Most modern diuretics result in the leeching of potassium from the body through the urine, which is not an issue with dandelion. In addition to being a great diuretic, it is also a great herb for liver and gall bladder health. It’s been a traditional treatment for congestive jaundice for quite some time.
As you can see, including this humble weed in your diet has obvious health benefits and they need not only be enjoyed Spring through Summer, but in winter as well. You might be wondering how to get wild dandelions in the winter. Well, that’s all about planning ahead. Just as a squirrel feels the approach of winter and begins to stock up and store food, so can us humans! Since the roots also contain all of the same properties as the foliage, I will usually dig up enough to get me through the winter months. All you have to do is split them, dry them and store them in an air-tight container. Then all you need to do is smash them up with a mortar and pestle and make yourself a hot tea as needed.
Obviously, I’ve just given you the quick and easy version and there’s a bit more to it than that. We’d need to talk infusions vs decoctions, which are two methods of preparing herbal teas. For the sake of time and also a more detailed future blog on working with plant medicines, I’ll leave it at that for now.
This should give you an excellent idea of just how versatile the dandelion is. Our goal here is to help you simplify your body and mind. Your body, by eating delicious all natural ingredients straight from Mother Earth, and your mind by reminding you that food and medicine are all around you if you just know where to look 😉 Hopefully next time you see a lawn full of dandelions you will see endless potential in the kitchen, nutrients or medicine for a healthy body, and happy yellow flowers for a healthy spirit………and not a “weed.”
We’re going to add more about the usefulness of “WEEDS” in our next few post, so stay tuned!!!! Please feel free to share your own experiences and recipes with us; we would love to hear from you!