Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Yellow Birch

Food: Broken twigs of the Yellow birch (B. alleghaniensis) and Black or Sweet birch (B. Nigra) have a wintergreen fragrance. A sap can be collected and boiled down from Yellow birch. From Black birch harvest the twigs, red inner bark and larger roots. The inner bark can be boiled or ground into a flour. Twigs and inner bark can be steeped into a tea. Wintergreen flavor is stronger in Black birch. Medicine: Chippewa made a medicine from Black and White birch (B. papyrifera) for stomach pain. birch leaf Pictures, Images and Photos Technology: New England tribes used the bark of White or Paper Birch for many purposes. Large bark sheets were stripped from the tree in late spring to use as house coverings or to build canoes. Smaller pieces of bark were cut into patterns and used to make dishes and utensils, including seamless maple sap collecting dishes and maple sugar storage containers (makaks). The bark was also cut and folded to make baskets, fans and even tinder to fish by torchlight from canoes. Folding and biting single thin layers of the paper produced dental pictographs, or birch bark transparencies, that could be used for beadwork designs and patterns for other decorations. Note: Indian legend surround the distinctive markings of the birch tree. The bark of this tree was never taken without acknowledgement its importance to Native Americans and without offering and thanks to the spirits that provide it. Read the Ojibwe story of Winnebojo & the Birch Tree. For additional information browse NativeTech's Uses of Birchbark. I have many Yellow Birch on my land, but there is one I call the Queen of my forest...She is big and beautiful and in early spring when she id=s shedding her bark she is something to see!

Monday, April 8, 2013

Pineapple Weed Matricaria matricaioides Identification: This plant is related to chamomile (M. chamomile). Pineapple weed is an annual, 10 - 40 cm tall with a non-rayed composite flower head. It does have a distinctive pineapple scent. Its leaves are pinnate. Habitat & Distribution: Pineapple weed is found in almost all waste areas. It can be seen growing in cracks in the sidewalk in the centre of most towns and along many a backwoods dirt road. Edible Parts: Pineapple weed may be eaten as a tasty snack item while hiking or added to a wild salad. It makes a calming tea when steeped in hot water. The crushed leaves, stems, and flowerheads may be applied to the skin as an insect repellent. A wash made of pineapple weed will remove greases from the hair and act as a general shampoo and natural hair tonic. It can be used as a treatment for diarrhea, stomachaches, flatulence, as a mild relaxant, and for colds and menstrual problems. Externally it can be used for itching and sores. Pineapple weed is an edible, medicinal plant that closely resembles wild chamomile. It’s prolific in the western U.S., (although I believe it can be found in the eastern U.S. as well). Wikipedia has a good article with some identifying characteristics and where to find it. If you keep your eyes peeled, you’ll start noticing the lacy foliage and little yellow flowers popping up in disturbed areas with poor soil. I live on a very hilly property, and anywhere that a bulldozer flattened out once upon a time now has pineapple weed growing all over it. I use this plant in place of chamomile for tea. It makes a soothing, mellow flavored tea that is wonderful with a little bit of honey. To use the herb fresh, snip off about a tablespoon of the yellow flowers and steep in hot water for a few minutes. To harvest and store for later use, gather it into bunches first thing in the morning and hang in a cool, dry place to dry. Snip off the buds and put them in a jar to preserve the flavor and aroma. You can make tea with pineapple weed alone, but I like making mixtures with whatever I have lying around. A cup of this is especially good if you’re kind of feeling like crap… Pineapple Weed Tea makes: one 32 oz. french press (although you could easily change the amounts for whatever size press you have) Ingredients: 1 tbs. dried pineapple weed – or- a few sprigs of fresh pineapple weed 5 fresh mint leaves 1 tbs. loose-leaf tea, such as Oolong honey to taste a few tablespoons of milk (optional, to taste) (I’m wondering if I need to write directions out for this? I will anyway though…) Heat a kettle of water to just shy of boiling. Put pineapple weed, oolong tea, and mint leaves into a french press. Pour hot water into press and let everything steep for 3-4 minutes. Press, and pour into cups. Stir in honey and milk to taste. Remember…. When you’re foraging for plants, make sure they’re not from an area that’s been contaminated by pollutants such as run off from a road. Know your plants some look a likes will kill you.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

"How To Make A Poultice" (To Treat Many Skin Ailments!)

You can make a poultice to draw infection, treat boils and abcesses, relieve inflammation or a rash or simply draw the poison from a bee sting! What is a poultice? A homemade poultice is made by mashing herbs, plant material or another substance with warm water or natural oils to make a paste. The paste can be applied directly to the skin and covered with a piece of clean cloth. If the herb used is potent such as onion, garlic, ginger, mustard, etc., you may want a layer of thin cloth between the skin and the herb. The cloth can then be covered with plastic wrap to hold in the moisture. The poultice can be changed every 3 to 4 hours or whenever it dries out. A compress is used the same way but usually warm liquids are applied to the cloth instead of raw substances. Tinctures or herbal infusions are great for compresses. The list of ingredients to use for a homemade poultice is endless! Make a Poultice for Boils, Infections, Abcesses and Inflammation The following poultice ingredients have properties to draw out infections reduce inflammation. These poultices can even be used to treat chest congestion, hemorrhoids and earaches. Don't forget that you can use poultices or compresses on your pets and livestock also! Onion Poultice- mash raw onion and mix with warm water or organic plant oils. You may want a thin layer of cloth between your skin and the onion. Watch a video on how to make an onion poultice here. (More instructional videos can be seen at the bottom of this page) Potato Poultice- Grate a raw potato and make your paste! A potato poultice is good for inflammation and eye troubles such as conjunctivitis. Mustard Poultice - Mash some mustard seeds, mix with natural oil or water and apply. Use thin cloth between paste and skin. A homemade mustard poultice is very powerful and can burn your skin if applied directly. Plantain Poultice- Plantain is a commom weed that has great drawing power. Mash the fresh weed for the paste or use a tincture as a compress. See the Insect Bite Remedy Page for more information on plantain. Activated Charcoal - Super absorbing properties! Comfrey Poultice - Comfrey roots and leaves have great healing properties especially where bones and ligaments are involved! Make a poultice out of comfrey for any aches or pains. Tumeric Poultice- Organic Tumeric makes a great drawing poultice for boils and infections. For even better results take up to one teaspoon tumeric in a cup of warm milk along with using the external tumeric poultice. (Tumeric is also known as turmeric or curcuma.) Cayenne Pepper makes a great compress for arthritis and many other aches and pains. Bread and Milk poultice - These work very well for infections and boils. Simply heat milk and add a bit of bread, wrap in gauze or cheese cloth and place on cut or wound. Use as hot as you can stand it. Repeat a few times a day as long as necessary. It works pretty fast and often much better than over the counter products. Lemon Balm Poultice - Lemon balm leaves make a poultice for small wounds, cold sores and insect bites. Mountain Rose Herbs. A herbs, health and harmony c MAKE A COMFREY POULTICE FOR SPRAINS AND BRUISES 1. Snip or crush a small handful of comfrey leaves into a dish. 2. Pour enough boiling water on the leaves to cover them. 3. Mash into a pulp with a spoon. A pestle and mortar works great for this! 4. Let cool a little then spread the pulp directly on the affected area. Cover with gauze and bandage to hold in the poultice in place. Leave on for several hours. MAKE A SLIPPERY ELM AND THYME POULTICE FOR BOILS Slippery elm has great healing properties and thyme is a great antiseptic. Try a plantain poultice for boils also. 1. Mash thyme leaves and cover with boiling water (same as comfrey poultice). 2. Pour off excess water and mix in 2 tablespoons of slippery elm powder. 3. Apply directly to the boil or enclose the pulp in gauze. Leave in place for several hours.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Autumn_4 Pictures, Images and Photos Happy Autumn and Autumn Equinox! The equinox is a special time when the day and night are of equal lengths. Traditionally, the Autumn Equinox is a time to give thanks for the harvest, and honor bounty and the gifts of the Mother Earth. It is also a time to reflect on your journey, enjoy the fruits of your personal harvests and contemplate the path in front of you. Balance is the keyword for equinox time. It is a time to look inside, seek balance and embrace both the dark and light sides of yourself. As the night continuing to grow longer and the earth energy moving into stillness and darkness of winter, we need to align our energy to the earth dormant cycle and the stillness within. Happy Autumn! Let us celebrate this seasonal shift and enjoy golden days as the autumn leaves begin to turn color.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Wild Edible Plants Benefits, Hazards, and Major Groups We are surrounded by wild edible plants everyday. In trying to learn about them, you might quickly feel overwhelmed by the staggering amount of information available. Here are some important consideration for getting started: - Identifying Plants - Benefits - Hazards - Major Groupings Identifying Plants It is vital that you can identify the wild edible plants that you intend to utilize. Some edible plants have deadly poisonous look-alikes. Good field guides are invaluable. The best guides clearly explain identification, collection, and preparation techniques. We highly recommend the following guides: - Identifying and Harvesting Wild Edible and Medicinal Plants by Steve Brill - Discovering Wild Plants by Janice Schofield Benefits Wild edible plants are very beneficial for you and your family for many reasons. First of all, there are wild edibles growing near you no matter what part of the world you live in. Chances are good, you can find a large number of species where you live and some of them are likely to be plentiful. Secondly, many wild plants are highly nutritious and can be even more nutritious than many store bought fruits and vegetables. For instance, dandelion which you might think of as little more than a garden-variety weed is actually an incredibly nutritious wild edible plant. In a single hundred gram amount of cooked dandelion greens, there is 11,000 mg of Potassium, 18 mg of vitamin C and 42 mg of calcium. You might consider eating the dandelions in your yard, rather than removing or poisoning them. Though if you are going to consume wild edible plants, make sure you also consider the hazards. Hazards There are some dangers in collecting and eating wild edibles. To begin with, think about the location you are gathering and consider the following: - Is the area sprayed with pesticides or herbicides? - Is the area close to a busy road or other source of pollution? - Does your target species have any poisonous look-alikes? Also consider that wild edible plants are often more nutritionally concentrated than store bought foods - you may not need to eat as much quantity as you would of foods from home. It is also wise to start off eating very small quantities of wild edible plants, especially those you have not tried before, in case of potential allergic reactions. Test them before you collect or eat large quantities. Also, the hazard many people forget to consider, and it is one of the most important, is the hazard you pose to the plants themselves! Please practice wise and sustainable harvesting techniques. Consider the needs of the plants and the other animals that might feed on them. If the plant you are harvesting is rare, is the only one of its kind on the location you are harvesting or especially if it is endangered, leave it alone! Look for places where the species you are interested in gathering is plentiful. Also look for plants that have abundant fruit, nuts or berries. This will make your job of gathering less work and also, if you are considerate, it will leave less of an impact on the land. A good guidelines is to collect one third of the plant material, leaving two thirds for plant regeneration and wildlife. Major Groupings of Wild Edible Plants There are so many different kinds of plants out there in the world. It can really help to initially lump them into more manageable groups. Here are some of the major groups of wild edibles, organized by plant families: The Lily Family (Liliaceae): This includes species such as: - Wild onions - Wild garlic - Wild leeks - Camas - Glacier lilies The Purslane Family (Portulacaceae): This includes: - Miner’s Lettuce - Spring Beauty The Rose Family (Rosaceae): This includes edible plants such as: - Blackberry - Raspberry - Salmonberry - Thimbleberry - Wild roses - Hawthorn - Serviceberry - Choke-cherry - Wild strawberry - Silverweed The Heath Family (Ericaceae): This includes species such as: - Cranberry - Blueberry - Huckleberry The Mustard Family (Brassicaceae): This includes plants such as: - Pennycress - Shepard’s purse - Watercress The Mint Family (Lamiaceae): This includes wild edibles such as: - Wild mint - Self-heal The Sunflower Family (Asteraceae): This includes species such as: - Dandelion - Wild sunflower - Salsify - Chicory - Pineapple weed - Oxeye daisy - Common burdock - Thistle species The Nettle Family (Urticaceae): This includes: - Stinging nettle The Cattail Family (Typhaceae): This includes: - Narrow-leaf and broad-leaved cattail The Beech Family (Fagaceae): This includes: - Oaks - Chestnuts - Beeches The Pine Family (Pinaceae): This includes trees such as: - Pine - Hemlock - Douglas-fir - Spruce With proper identification and careful consideration of safety & potential hazards, edible wild plants can become an exciting and healthful part of your diet. Happy foraging!

Friday, March 2, 2012

"Ten Wild Plants For Spring Eats"

After a long, cold winter , spring is soon to arrive to push us outside to collect new green leaves and dig up fat roots. This is the time, according to tradition, for spring cleaning – and we don’t mean the house. We’re referring to an ancient folk belief about cleaning the blood, renewing the spirit, and energizing the body.

From the time of the Greek physician Galen in the second century and into the seventeenth, it was commonly believed the blood became stagnant after a cold winter, and that indoor air affected one’s temperament and brought about melancholy, as per the four humours (blood/sanguine, phlegm/apathetic, black bile/depressive, and yellow bile/ choleric). The idea still seems to hold water if you consider all the fluorescent lights and vitamin D lamps for sale throughout the northeast in wintertime.

How does one clean the blood? The process is very simple; it’s been done for centuries in England and the United States, and it’s a tradition in which everyone can participate: young and old, healthy or infirm, Islander or landlubber. The antidote to the melancholy after months of snow, cold, and dismal darkness is eating greens.

The greens are bitter, but that’s the point. They are stomachic, meaning they improve digestion, which is the whole essence behind purifying the blood. The ancient folk belief says that the blood is not dirty, rather the liver and the lymphatic system accumulate toxins from processing rich, heavy foods during cold winter months, and eating bitter greens helps to expel them.

Here are ten wild plants to be on the lookout for this spring.But please research them so that you know beyond doubt what you are picking.There are look a likes.


Galium aparine Pictures, Images and Photos

Cleavers (Galium aparine) is an herb that grows in dense mats on long spindly stalks, often knee-high or higher in rich soil. The hairy stalks are dotted with axils of tiny leaves, like crowns, every few inches up the length. (It resembles sweet woodruff, which is shorter and not edible: In fact, sweet woodruff is considered by the FDA as safe only when used in alcoholic beverages, and large doses are toxic.) Adorning each whirl of cleavers leaves is a tiny white flower. The plant is also commonly called lady’s bedstraw, because the hairy stalks cling to each other – and to your clothes – giving the plant a sticky feeling. American colonists would mat the stalks together to stuff their mattresses for cushioning. Medicinally, cleavers have been used in traditional herbalism to improve the health of the lymphatic system and to treat numerous ailments. Look for cleavers in shady rich woods or in the cool areas of your garden, often growing up rock walls or fences. Harvest the entire stalk: Snipped into pieces, it can be eaten raw in salads, or steamed (as you would steam turnip greens) with vinegar, making it a tasty vegetable.

傳說中的蒲公英 Pictures, Images and Photos

This plant is a veritable medicine chest and food pantry in itself. Dandelion (Taraxacum vulgare) is familiar to many of us with its bright yellow flower and deeply toothed leaves, which gave it the name lion’s tooth, or dent de lion in French. Whether you like it or not, many a lawn has dandelions. The plant is easy to identify even when it’s not in flower because of the leaf shape and the fact that dandelion leaves and stalks have no hair; chicory, which is also edible, has similar leaves but has tiny hairs all along it. Spring is the best time to gather young dandelion leaves, which are high in vitamin A, ascorbic acid, potassium, and calcium, and are considered a valuable diuretic. Eaten raw, they provide a pleasant bitter contrast to sweet spring lettuces; or steamed, they make a wonderful bitter. With your evening meal, try lightly steaming them with ginger slices and tamari or soy sauce; or in the fall, harvest the roots, which are high in iron and can be saut éed, stir-fried, or steeped in vinegar for a salad dressing.

quick recipe: Steamed dandelion leaf salad

Gather a basketful (or a gallon bag full) of dandelion greens, rinse them, and lightly steam them in the water that clings to them (only for a few seconds). Remove from heat and add a handful of dried cranberries, crumbled feta cheese, pine nuts, and a sprinkling of olive oil and vinegar. Mix well and serve with crusty garlic bread, local roasted chicken, and elderberry wine.


wild garlic Pictures, Images and Photos

The many species of the onion family include onions, chives, and garlic (Allium sativum). While garlic is not a common wild plant on the Vineyard, you may find clumps of it, or of escaped cultivated garlic, growing anywhere the soil is rich and the trees offer shade and protection. Both wild and cultivated garlic are high in minerals such as magnesium, iron, manganese, and sulfur, and have traditionally been used in the diet to regulate cholesterol levels. Even in somewhat acid soils, like under our scrubby oak trees, you’ll find clumps of these alliums sending up their tall stiff leaves that resemble spears. If you dig, you’ll discover tiny bulbs, often not as big as what you see at the store, but these are edible and delicious. When the plant flowers, it sends forth balls of buds that open haphazardly and give the plant a fire-cracker look. The buds that form prior to the flowers opening are edible and can be snipped off for a salad or stir-fry , and the flowers – usually white, purple, pink, or red – are edible and offer a nice zing to the same dishes.

Japanese Knotweed

Japanese Knotweed up close. Pictures, Images and Photos

This introduced species is often considered a pest and is eradicated from many yards, but it is actually quite lovely to look at with flowers that hang in clusters, giving it an ethereal, cloud-like appearance – and it’s useful as food. Instead of simply eradicating it, consider pulling up all the shoots in the early spring to make “asparagus” omelets. This would certainly be less intensive and more flavorful than spraying them with herbicide. If you don’t know where your neighborhood patch of knotweed (Polygonum cuspidatum) is, watch for it this summer: The whole plant can grow into a bush six feet tall, and the broad heart-shaped leaves are smooth and bright, just like pokeweed’s. But instead of growing upright on a trunk, it sends out leaning and creeping stems punctuated with cream-colored flowers at the base of each leaf. Because it contains resveratrol – the same substance touted for making wine a heart-healthy drink – eating Japanese knotweed may help protect against heart attacks, and it is also being studied for its effects against Lyme disease. Harvest the stalk of the plant and cook as you would asparagus or rhubarb. Slightly tart, the young stalks (after they’ve grown slightly beyond the shoot stage) taste similar to rhubarb.


wild mustard Pictures, Images and Photos

If you want a spicy kick in the springtime, harvest some mustard leaves. Each flower of this Brassica plant is a tiny, yellow cross, and these sunny mustards can quickly overtake a fallow field. Several varieties grow on the Island, including field mustard (B. rapa) and black mustard (B. nigra). The leaves are serrated, deeply lobed, and can be a purplish color. Mustard plants have slightly prickly under-leaves and stems. Look for them in meadows, abandoned gardens, and waste places that receive ample sun. The early spring leaves can be eaten raw in salads for a mild peppery flavor (reminiscent of arugula), but as summer progresses the flavor grows sharper. To remove excess bitterness, be sure to boil in changes of water: Bring water to a boil, submerge the leaves and let them boil for three to five minutes, then drain and repeat the process with a pot of fresh water. Rinse after the final boiling. Mustard greens can also be sautéed and may be cooked with bacon or pork for a satisfying Southern-style meal. You can make your own homemade mustard by grinding the tiny mustard seeds and mixing them with water, vinegar, salt, and pepper.

Poke weed
Pokeweed Pictures, Images and Photos

This is one of the loveliest plants, but is poisonous by the end of the season when it sports a thick crimson trunk that towers overhead and droops bouquets of scarlet berries from above. For a few weeks in early spring though, the young tender shoots can be eaten like asparagus – only until they are no bigger than the width of a finger. Phytolacca Americana can be found in rich soil near gardens and woodland edges and can grow up to ten feet tall, with a trunk that is as thick as your forearm, and leaves that are a smooth, bright green. Look for the young shoots to emerge from last year’s root stalks. Both the roots and shoots will have the characteristic scarlet-tinged coloring and resemble fat asparagus, but the root is always poisonous. Later in the season, poke produces berries with small white flowers that hang in clusters like grapes. The seeds inside the berry are toxic and should not be eaten. However, the new one- to two-inch leaves are nutritious and fine throughout the growing season, and especially in the spring, in an old folk dish called poke sallet, in which they are boiled in several changes of water, then sprinkled with vinegar, and served with cubed pork if desired.

Oxeye Daisy

daisy Pictures, Images and Photos

Oxeye daisy (Chrysanthemum leucanthemum) is the common daisy with white petals and a yellow center that blooms in springtime. Daisies are at their tastiest before the flowers blossom: The unopened buds and greens are edible and delicious. Oxeye daisies can be found in yards and open, grassy areas, and alongside gardens and roads. The leaves look small and frilly, a cross between miniature arugula leaves and fris ée lettuce. The taste is milder than arugula, but with a flavor described as “sweet, succulent and slightly spicy” by Russ Cohen in his book Wild Plants I Have Knownand Eaten (Essex County Greenbelt Association, 2004). Pinch the leaves free and add them to a salad along with other leafy green spring edibles like watercress, wild mustard, dandelion greens, and sea rocket.

Sea rocket

Sea rocket Pictures, Images and Photos

As the name implies, American sea rocket can be found while walking the beach, especially along the Island’s north shore, at the edge of grassy areas. Growing six- to twelve-inches high, this native plant (Cakile edentula) belonging to the mustard family has delicate (usually yellow) flowers and oval, succulent, green leaves with slightly wavy, blunted edges. All of it is edible, and quite nutritious with calcium, beta-carotene, and folate. Another rocket, commonly called arugula, gives us a hint of the taste of this wild edible, sometimes referred to as sea kale. The leaves taste similar to arugula with that characteristic spicy, horseradish flavor that may intensify later in the season. Sea rocket adds zip to your sandwich or salad. Just pinch off the leaves, wash, and toss with milder salad greens, or chop and use to garnish seafood. After a late-summer bloom, seed pods form and these can be picked and ground into mustard.

Stinging nettle

stinging nettle Pictures, Images and Photos

One of the most nutritious so-called weeds, stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) has a reputation for leaving painful welts on the skin. It’s true, if you brush against one of the one- to three-foot, pale green stems or its serrated, deeply toothed leaves, the plant will inject you with a tiny amount of formic acid, and it will sting. Rather deceiving, with its small, pretty, pale green flowers hanging like little garlands, nettle is covered with tiny hollow hairs, so you must wear gloves to harvest it. As seventeenth-century English physician Nicholas Culpeper said, “Nettles are so well known that they need no description. They may be found, by feeling, in the darkest night.” Look in the very rich, shady woods, near vernal springs, or on the farm where you used to keep compost, and don’t let the sting keep you from this nourishing plant. Nettles can be brewed into a tea that is rich in cobalt, iron, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, and B vitamins; nettle tea can also be used as a hair rinse and strengthener, or to water your plants. Nettle is also a superb potherb, meaning it can be used as a vegetable, and it can be grown in a pot on your kitchen windowsill for regular meals. Put nettle leaves in soups (the sting disappears when cooked), casseroles, or anywhere you would use spinach.


watercress Pictures, Images and Photos

In the same family as mustard, watercress (Nasturtium officinale) is one of the most popular wild foods available, and its long growing season (flowering from April to October) makes it easy to find and harvest. As the common name suggests, watercress loves water: It often grows in dense spongy patches on the surface of springs and creeks, its succulent, spicy leaves floating on the rippling waters under shady trees. The small, dark green, oval leaves have rounded edges, and tiny tufts of white, four-petaled flowers grow at the end of firm yet tender stems. Snap off the peppery tasting leaves (and the flowers, if desired) and add to salads or soups, or use like chives. This plant provides vitamins A and C and was traditionally used in the treatment of scurvy and tuberculosis. Best eaten raw, it offers a wonderful, pungent taste to counteract sweet lettuces in salads.
I will talk about the medicinal properties of these ten wild plants in a later blog.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012


dandelion Pictures, Images and PhotosThe dandelion is a perennial, herbaceous plant with long, lance-shaped leaves. They're so deeply toothed, they gave the plant its name in Old French: Dent-de-lion means lion's tooth in Old French.

The leaves are 3 to 12" long, and 1/2 to 2-1/2" wide, always growing in a basal rosette.
he flower head can change into the familiar, white, globular seed head overnight. Each seed has a tiny parachute, to spread far and wide in the wind.
Dandelion Pictures, Images and Photos
The thick, brittle, beige, branching taproot grows up to 10" long. All parts of this plant exude a white milky sap when broken.
Dandelion leaves are at their best when they've just emerged.
There are no poisonous look-alikes. Other very similar Taraxacum species, as well as chicory and wild lettuce only resemble dandelions in the early spring. All these edibles also exude a white milky sap when injured, but chicory and wild lettuce leaves have some hair, at least on the underside of the midrib, while Taraxacum leaves are bald. Unlike the other genera, Taraxacum stays in a basal rosette. It never grows a tall, central, stalk bearing flowers and leaves.

Dandelions are especially well-adapted to a modern world of "disturbed habitats," such as lawns and sunny, open places. They were even introduced into the Midwest from Europe to provide food for the imported honeybees in early spring. They now grow virtually worldwide. Dandelions spread further, are more difficult to exterminate, and grow under more under adverse circumstances than most competitors.

Most gardeners detest them, but the more you try to weed them up, the faster they grow.

The taproot is deep, twisted, and brittle.

Unless you remove it completely, it will regenerate. If you break off more pieces than you unearth, the dandelion wins. "What's a dandelion digger for?" a dandelion asked.

"Itís a human invention to help us reproduce," another dandelion replied.

Collect dandelion leaves in early spring, when they're the tastiest, before the flowers appear. Harvest again in late fall. After a frost, their protective bitterness disappears. Dandelions growing in rich, moist soil, with the broadest leaves and largest roots, are the best. Select the youngest individuals, and avoid all plants with flowers. Some people eat the greens from spring to fall, when they're very bitter. Others boil out the summer bitterness (and water-soluble vitamins) out in two changes of water. Itís all a matter of preference.

Dandelion greens are wonderful in salads, sautÈed or steamed. They taste like chicory and endive, with an intense heartiness overlying a bitter tinge.

People today shun bitter flavorsótheyíre so conditioned by overly sweet or salty processed food. But in earlier times, we distinguished between good and bad bitterness.Mixed with other flavors, as in a salad, dandelions improve the flavor.
dandelion Pictures, Images and Photos

I also love sautÈing them for about 20 minutes with onions and garlic in olive oil, adding a little home-made wine before they're done. If you're not used to the slight bitterness, cook them with sweet vegetables, especially sliced carrots and parsnips. Boiling dandelions in one or more changes of water makes them milderóa good introduction if you're new to natural foods. Early spring is also the time for the crownógreat sautÈed, pickled, or in cooked vegetable dishes.

You can also eat dandelion flowers, or use them to make wine. Collect them in a sunny meadow, just before mid-spring, when the most flowers bloom. Some continue to flower right into the fall. Use only the flowerís yellow parts. The green sepals at the flowerís base are bitter.

The flowers add color, texture, and an unusual bittersweet flavor to salads. You can also sautÈ them, dip them in batter and fry them into fritters, or steam them with other vegetables. They have a meaty texture that contrasts with other lighter vegetables in a stir-fry dish or a casserole. A Japanese friend makes exceptionally delicious traditional dandelion flower pickles, using vinegar and spices.

The taproot is edible all year, but is best from late fall to early spring. Use it as a cooked vegetable, especially in soups. Although not as tasty as many other wild root vegetables, Itís not bad. I remember finding large dandelions with huge roots growing on the bottom of a grassy hillside. They were only mildy bitter, so I threw them into a potato stock. With the added scallions, tofu, ginger, carrots and miso, this became an excellent Japanese miso soup.

Pre-boiling and changing the water, or long, slow simmering mellows this root. Sweet vegetables best complement dandelion roots. Sauteing the roots in olive oil also improves them, creating a robust flavor. A little Tamari soy sauce and onions complete this unusual vegetable side dish.

The leaves are more nutritious than anything you can buy. They're higher in beta-carotene than carrots. The iron and calcium content is phenomenal, greater than spinach. You also get vitamins B-1, B-2, B-5, B-6, B-12, C, E, P, and D, biotin, inositol, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, and zinc by using a tasty, free vegetable that grows on virtually every lawn. The root contains the sugar inulin, plus many medicinal substances.

Dandelion root is one of the safest and most popular herbal remedies. The specific name, officinale, means that It's used medicinally. The decoction is a traditional tonic. Itís supposed to strengthen the entire body, especially the liver and gallbladder, where it promotes the flow of bile, reduces inflammation of the bile duct, and helps get rid of gall stones. This is due to its taraxacin. Itís good for chronic hepatitis, it reduces liver swelling and jaundice, and it helps indigestion caused by insufficient bile. Don't use it with irritable stomach or bowel, or if you have an acute inflammation.

The modern French name for this plant is pissenlit (lit means bed) because the root and leaf tea act on the kidneys as a gentle diuretic, improving the way they cleanse the blood and recycle nutrients. Unlike pharmaceuticals diuretics, this doesn't leach potassium, a vital mineral, from the body. Improved general health and clear skin result from improved kidney function. One man I spoke to even claims he avoided surgery for urinary stones by using dandelion root tea alone.

Dandelions are also good for the bladder, spleen, pancreas, stomach and intestines. Itís recommended for stressed-out, internally sluggish, and sedentary people. Anyone who's a victim of excessive fat, white flour, and concentrated sweeteners could benefit from a daily cup of dandelion tea.

Dandelion rootís inulin is a sugar that doesn't elicit the rapid production of insulin, as refined sugars do. It helps mature-onset diabetes, and I used it as part of a holistic regime for hypoglycemia (low blood sugar).
dandelion Pictures, Images and Photos
Dandelion leaf infusion also good at dinner time. Its bitter elements encourage the production of proper levels of hydrochloric acid and digestive enzymes. All the digestive glands and organs respond to this herbís stimulation. Even after the plant gets bitter, a strong infusion, is rich in vitamins and minerals, and helps people who are run-down. Even at its most bitter (Taraxacum come from Arabic and Persian, meaning "bitter herb"), it never becomes intolerably so, like golden seal and gentian.

The leafís white, milky sap removes warts, moles, pimples, calluses, and sores, and soothes bee stings and blisters.

Unlike most other seeds, dandelionsí can germinate without long periods of dormancy. To further increase reproductive efficiency, the plant has given up sex: The seeds can develop without cross-fertilization, so a flower can fertilize itself. This lets it foil the gardener by dispersing seeds as early as the day after the flower opens.