Spring cleaning is not just for your home or yard. It is time to clean out the body as well. In the past, before supermarkets offered fresh vegetables all year long, people relied on canned, dried or pickled foods to get them through the winter. Fresh vegetables usually consisted of potatoes, winter squash and root vegetables, those that if stored properly, would last for months. By spring, people looked forward to those first peeks of fresh greens in their gardens. Though called weeds by the majority of people today, these plants were what was called bitters.
Stinging nettles, chickweed, burdock, mints and dandelions are just some of the edible weeds often sought out by foragers. If you are interested in supplying your own greens, just be sure you are cutting plants that have not been exposed to herbicides or pesticides.
Dandelions have been used or ages to detox and fortify the liver. By lowering cholesterol levels, liver function improves.
Dandelion leaves are high in the electrolytes sodium and potassium, thus they may help support the kidneys as a natural diuretic. A diuretic helps increase urine output, allowing the body to reduce water retention.
Anyone with digestive issues needs to add bitters to their diet. By increasing hydrochloric acid in the stomach, digestion is improved, gas in reduced, elimination is more regular, and all in all, less bloating and belly aches.
High in calcium, dandelions are proof you can meet your calcium requirements without relying solely on dairy.
Dandelions are what you could call a multivitamin green. High in iron, potassium, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, calcium, beta carotene, copper, vitamin C, vitamin B1, vitamin B2, vitamin B6, vitamin E and vitamin K.
At this point you may be thinking, "yea right, I have trouble getting my family to eat lettuce, how in the world am I going to get them to eat weeds."
Well, unless your diet has routinely included cooked greens, it may take some getting used to. Dandelion leaves are on the bitter side, so it is best to collect them before flowering. But since we may not even notice them until we see yellow, we just have to find ways of cooking that add flavor and reduce the bitterness. The leaves can always be added fresh to salads or chopped up and put into soups. If you want to try them as a side dish, here is the basic recipe for Sauteed Greens:
Wash the fresh leaves in a strainer to remove any dirt.
Put in a large pot with only the clinging moisture from washing.
Add a dab of butter or olive oil.
Saute on medium heat till wilted. This only takes 7 - 10 minutes. Greens should be cooked only until they turn bright green. If the color darkens, the greens have been cooked too long.
Add salt and pepper to taste and serve.
1. First saute onions and garlic in butter and then add the greens.
2. Fry bacon, remove to a plate and use the drippings to cook the greens. Then dice the bacon and return to pan to heat through before serving.
3. Add balsamic vinegar before serving.
4. Add Bragg's Liquid Aminos before serving.
I have to admit, I need to find ways to make this dish more enticing. Perhaps chop up the leaves first and they definitely needed something like bacon or ham. I may have overcooked them a bit so need to work on that too.
My mother told me her mother used to make a Hot Bacon Dressing and served it over fresh dandelion leaves. The dressing was hot so it wilted the greens just enough.
6 slices diced bacon
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
2 tsp cornstarch mixed with 2 tsp water
1/2 cup white vinegar
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup sugar
salt and pepper
Fry the bacon until crisp.
Remove the bacon from pan, leaving the fat.
Set bacon aside.
Ad onion to bacon fat and cook five minutes or until soft.
Set onion aside with the bacon.
Pour bacon fat into measuring cup and add enough vegetable oil to equal 1/2 cup.
Combine vinegar, water, sugar, salt and pepper in small saucepan and heat to a boil.
Add cornstarch mixture and cook until thickened, about 1 - 2 minutes.
Remove from heat and add bacon and onion.
Serve while warm. Pour over fresh dandelion leaves.
There are several ways to get the benefits of these plants:
Teas: Light infusions made with fresh or dried flowers, leaves or roots
Decoctions: Simmering tougher plant material such as the roots for up to 20 minutes
Tinctures: Made with alcohol or vegetable glycerin to extract the medicinal properties. Very concentrated, drops are added to water, juice or tea
To make any of these, follow these rules:
Dried herbs use 1 tsp dried herb to 1 cup boiling water.
Fresh herbs use 1 tbsp fresh herb to 1 cup boiling water.