Wild food provides complex and fresh aromas that you just don’t get with store-bought produce. Many also come with a myriad of health benefits. Today I want to tell you about why we spend time harvesting dandelions on our homestead.
We’ve been actively exploring the wild food that surrounds us for the past five years. I’ve always appreciated foraging but it took moving to this homestead and a lifestyle change to truly awaken my desire to dive in deep.
Sharing our experiences and what we’ve learned about these old time skills, is deeply important. Its a way to honour the timeless tradition of passing down traditional knowledge from generation to generation. It is also a way to empower others that are seeking alternatives to modern day convenience.
This week the star of our kitchen has been the mighty dandelion.Our field is still aglow with sunny yellow dandelions, and we are taking full advantage of this by harvesting dandelions as soon as the sun dries the morning dew.
We’ve been eating dandelion all week in salads and I’ve been replenishing my energy with an iron boosting tea. Dandelion is a powerhouse of nutrition. Its a rich source of beta-carotene (vitamin A), vitamin C, fiber, potassium, iron, calcium, magnesium, zinc, and phosphorus. It is also a source of B complex vitamins, trace minerals, organic sodium, and vitamin D AND dandelion has more protein than spinach!
We are also busy gathering, storing, infusing and making a variety of herbal preparations with the dandelion including dried leaves for tea, roots for coffee and infused oil for topical uses. The versatility of this plant is quite astounding and it is one of the best plants to get to know because of it’s wide spread availability. (Just be sure to harvest from areas that are chemical free).
Have you ever taken the time to smell a dandelion? You really should if you haven’t. The leaves & blossoms have this gorgeous honey scent that really lifts the spirits. I highly recommend getting outside and harvesting dandelions, it’s a wonderful family friendly activity.
Harvesting Dandelions: Blossoms for Herbal Infused Oil
What I’ll use it for: Soap and salves. Dandelion blossom oil is excellent for soothing dry skin and can also alleviate tired muscles and general aches and pains. I might just dunk myself in the oil the moment it is ready. After a marathon gardening session everything aches today.
This is one of the rare times that I use heat with an oil infusion. I usually prefer to slow and gentle approach, but with the dandelion, this is not the best option. Dandelion blossoms have water content and don’t dry thoroughly. Often they’ll turn to fluff balls when you try. After allowing them to air dry for a day, they seemed to have more moisture than they did when we started and to avoid the risk of too much water which can cause the oil to go rancid over time, we are using the double boiler method. This will help to evaporate the excess water and as a bonus it if a fast process, you can be using the oil in just a few hours.
Harvesting Dandelions: Dried Leaves
What I’ll use it for: although there are a wide range of uses, my main focus is to create dried leaves for tea. This tea will be used to alleviate UTI’s and also Edema (water retention). I’ve recently started getting really swollen feet and ankles during the hottest days of the summer and could really use a little help with alleviating that.
Fresh leaves are always best but we live where there can be snow on the ground for half the year so preparing for winter is essential. Once we harvest the dandelion leaves they are thoroughly washed and the excess water is spun out using a salad spinner. When most of the water was removed, I set them out on my herb drying trays. Once these are dry and brittle, I’ll store them in airtight glass jars.
Harvesting Dandelions: Dried/Roasted Root
What I’ll use it for: Coffee substitute mixed with Chicory root and herbal tinctures.
I washed the roots thoroughly and scrubbed them to remove all soil, discarding any pieces that were soft or mushy. These are air drying on trays. Tomorrow I’ll chop the roots up and pop them in the oven to slow roast. I’ll store them in airtight glass jars. We only harvested a small amount of root. Its better to wait for fall when the roots are bigger.
Resources that I use
I’ve got a collection of books that I refer to often when studying wild plants. If you have access to a local or regional field guide book, I strongly recommend that you buy them. I use ours almost daily. Herbal recipe books are also incredibly useful and my favourite book of all time is still The Boreal Herbal. It covers a wide range of wild plant throughout North America. The book goes well beyond the Boreal Forest. I now live in the Acadian Forest and all of the plants listed are here too. I also picked up a new book The Backyard Herbal Apothecary: Effective Medicinal Remedies Using Commonly Found Herbs & Plants and the recipes and details are quite wonderful.