Ode to the Dandelion – and Our Wildcrafted Dandelion Salve
It was my 1 year old who prodded me toward the dandelions. They were everywhere. For about a week, their sunny yellow flower heads were popping up all over the place, along every street and path, in every stretch of green. I thought about using them somehow. After all, their flowers only last a brief moment, and they have so many uses. How could I waste this opportunity?
But I didn't go gather any.
Until one early morning when I was working at my computer, he showed up in the window holding a handful of dandelions. I met him outside. He pointed to the dandelion flowers, saying Look, and when I nodded weakly, he squatted down in the grass, pointed harder, practically yelling, Look!
I grabbed a basket, and we walked a few kilometers to a protected nature area far away from traffic and industrial activity, and we filled our basket with dandelions – not all the way. We took only what we needed. Enough to fill a 2 liter jar.
I wanted to gather more and use them as a yellow dye on our textiles, but I didn't have any cloth ready, and my list of dye projects was already so long. Next spring I promise to dye something – a set of linen napkins, perhaps – a dandelion yellow.
This year I have other plans for them though.
Most people see dandelions as a weed. They try to get rid of them. Douse them with pesticides. But please don't! They offer us so many, many advantages!
The entire plant is useful – leaves, flowers, roots and stems.
Dandelion leaves are very nutritious, including more beta carotene than carrots, more Vitamin K than kale. They can be eaten raw or cooked and taste similar to arugula. They are a diuretic, which means they clear the kidney of waste. A lot of people use dandelion to help heal the liver too. Or manage cholesterol. The list of health benefits goes on and on, because the plant is so rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
The flowers are also edible. Here in Scandinavia, it was once common to make dandelion vinegar and even dandelion wine! Ever heard of dandelion schnapps? It's a real thing, and Danish apparently.
You can add the flower heads to desserts. Turn them into jams and jellies. Throw them into salads.
Dandelion flowers can be infused into oil and made into healing salves. They are especially healing for gardener's hands, which is ironic since it is often gardeners who are trying to get rid of them.
Dandelion infused oil can help relieve joint pain and achy muscles, to heal cracked, dry, overworked skin, or even to remove warts. It's also known as a beauty tonic, treating chronic skin conditions and diminishing wrinkles.
Dandelion roots make a nice caffeine-free coffee alternative. Both the roots and greens can also be made into teas.
More amazingly, the roots can tackle powerful foreign microbes in the body and even destroy leukemia cells. A lot of research is still being done on dandelion's ability to fight various types of cancer, and so far dandelion's cancer-treating potential looks promising.
We're highlighting only a fraction of the ways in which dandelion plants can be used and hope we've convinced at least one person to love them rather than hate them!
So what did we do with our foraged dandelions this year?
Dried them and infused them into organic olive oil for several weeks, strained them out and, for a moment, just swooned over the richly yellow oil.
We made a special Dandelion Salve that is perfect for gardeners, farmers, foragers, craftspeople, cleaners or anyone who does any sort of manual work and needs some relief for their over-dry, over-worked hands.
This salve is gold.
Make a Wish
Now the flowers have folded back into buds and re-emerged as wispy globes that are super fun to blow. As children, we were taught to make a wish before blowing the dandelion, scattering our wish across the earth. As an adult, I still enjoy blowing on dandelions, but knowing what I know now about them, instead of making a wish, I utter a word of gratitude.
This year, I am especially grateful for my little boy who oftentimes sees more than I see, who's favorite word is Look! and who made sure I gave the dandelions their proper due.