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Sauté it, Don’t Spray it -Part 2: Dandelions! History, Pesto and More…!

This is the second chapter in a series of Blogs which I am completing to increase awareness of the nutrition and medicinal bounty present in the most common of resources,…the weeds in your yard. Today, I will share a recipe for those beautiful, sun-yellow dandelions which will soon grace almost everyone’s yard. Fresh, green leaves will appear as soon as the Winter thaw starts. And yes, it will eventually get here, no matter how dark and cold the days are now. There is a cycle to everything, and to everything a reason. In respect to plants, a cold spell conditions most seeds chemically, which allows sprouting to occur once Spring becomes apparent. Often the plants are quicker to recognize the season change before we do.

Dandelions are an edible herb which has saved multiple lives from starvation and illness in the past. Most likely, your own ancestors rejoiced and thrived to see those tender green leaves

appear as the pantry became bare. Earliest immigrants carried their dandelion species from Europe to North America in their pockets, knowing they had at least one viable food option to rely on. Unbeknownst to them, the Native Americans were well acquainted with dandelion variants natural to North America that were growing in abundance. They were also very knowledgeable in their nutritional and medicinal uses.

Our ancestors relied on this bitter herb for survival and medicine, however, they are still part of daily diets throughout the World today, even being an addition to gourmet dishes, with amazing recipes abounding from multiple sources. This is due to their high availability and known to be packed with massive amounts of nutrients for nearly every part of your body. Did you know..

All parts of the Dandelion are nutritious,

delicious and medicinal? Dandelions can...

1. Improve liver and digestion function.

2. Detoxify the body.

3. Balance blood sugar levels.

4. Improve Immunity & fight infection.

5. Reduces inflammation in joints and tissues.

6. Provides a source of high iron, vitamins & minerals.

Nutrients (mg) and % RDA per 100 grams of Dandelion leaves.

We most often think of the Common Dandelion (Taraxacum Officinale) which was the one brought from Europe and pops up anywhere there is disturbed earth to catch a flying seed tuft. And yes, your carefully manicured lawn is often considered disturbed soil by the dandelion seed. This is because the soil under most manicured lawns is no longer in a natural state of balance, having lost the necessary microorganisms and chemistry. This occurs through use of weed killers, pesticides and other lawn conditioning chemicals, that destroy the complex biome within the soil itself. Even with all the fertilizer that may be tossed onto it to keep it looking healthy and green,… it is NOT healthy soil! ( For more detail see my Blog, “Sauté It! Don’t Spray It!: Part 1”) .

Lucky for us, nutrition poor soil is just what dandelions like! Yes!, …Lucky! Because, believe it or not, letting the dandelions grow for a season, or two, amongst your cultivated grass, (without continuing to apply toxins, of course), improves the soil condition and your lawns health. With their deep tap roots, dandelions bring nutrients and minerals closer to the surface for other plants to thrive upon. They reinstate conditions needed for nature to then do its thing,…which is to provide life and balance to the soil. Then your now truly healthy grass, will naturally phase out the dandelions and other weeds.

Be patient and watch the experiment unfold. There are many sites to help in your quest to reach an organic lawn state. An article by This Old House titled How To Treat Your Lawn Organically, describes a list of steps to take and I have supplied the link here:

“About this grass now. I didn't finish telling. It grows so close it's guaranteed to kill off clover and dandelions-Great God in heaven! That means no dandelion wine next year! That means no bees crossing our lot! You're out of your mind, son.”

― Ray Bradbury, Dandelion Wine

NOTE: I would not recommend you immediately eat these particular dandelions growing in your yard once you change to an organically sustained lawn. It takes about 3 years to let all the poisons leach out and break down, depending on your snow/rain fall. As a side note, those toxins are water soluble, which means they will drain away, and for decades have been tainting our aquifers and water sources. We all have some clean up and repair of our Earth to attend to. Meanwhile, my husband and I consistently distill our water for drinking and cooking, to remove all toxins.

If you want to plant your own dandelion crop in soil that has not been contaminated, this is extremely easy,…just grab a few dandelion puff balls and carefully blow them onto the healthy ‘disturbed’ soil. Sprinkle moist soil on top, no more than 1/8”.

First dandelion leaves to sprout are rounded.

I actually plant and encourage dandelion growth amongst my vegetables and botanical flowers, enjoying the additional harvest that flourishes. Identification of the dandelions when in their early growth can be tricky however, as there are many species of dandelions, (all edible),... but some are true weeds, (also edible), that look similar until larger leaves form or they flower.

Dandelion leaves have distinctive serrated or "toothed" edges.

It is always good to cross identify. The multiple kinds of dandelions are nicely described in this article by Gardening Vibe, “10 Types of Dandelion Weeds”,

There are several non-dandelions which also create a rosette of leaves before it flowers, and these can be found in the article“Rosette Forming Weeds of Early Spring”,

Be aware that some of these non-dandelions are other herbs from nature that are also edible and have medicinal properties. They will be discussed in future blog chapters in this series.

“Dandelions, Like All Things In Nature, Are Beautiful When You Take Time To Pay Attention To Them”- June Stoyer

Dandelion Leaf Pesto…

Let’s explore a recipe that I make regularly, even in the Winter. I freeze several batches of fresh dandelion leaves in a bit of salt water in the Fall so I am never without this tasty meal addition. I recently was able to make this very yummy pesto for some unsuspecting guests at a New Year’s dinner. Served on sliced baguettes and then toasted in an oven with a topping of grated Parmesan cheese,…Well, let’s just say, the resulting addition to our festive meal was delicious!

So, here it is. You will notice I use an actual mortar and pestle to do the mixing, but feel free to throw it all in a food processor to simplify.

Remember,…ONLY harvest fresh dandelion leaves from an uncontaminated growing area, away from roadways, pesticides and other chemicals in the soil. Like all greens you use in salads and cooking, they should be a beautiful green, free of brown edges and resilient, not wilted.

Ingredients for Dandelion Leaf Pesto

2 cups fresh, tender dandelion leaves, chopped finely, or 1 cup frozen dandelion leaves, chopped finely. ( Pre-chopping the dandelions leaves reduces the naturally stringy fibers interfering in the texture.)

1 tsp pink Himalayan sea salt

1 tsp dried basil leaves ( or 1 TBSP fresh chopped)

¼ cup sunflower seeds( unsalted, raw or toasted- HINT: IF you do use salted sunflower seeds, hold on adding any further salt until you have tasted the final result)

1 to 2 TBSP Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Cold Pressed and Organic

4 garlic cloves, finely chopped

¼ cup finely grated Parmesan cheese, organic

Blend into a course texture: Half the salt, all the basil and garlic, and half the dandelion leaves. Gradually add the rest of the dandelion leaves, continuing to blend.

Add: ½ the sunflower seeds, then 1 Tablespoon of olive oil and all the grated cheese. Add more sunflower seeds and olive oil until you achieve the texture and consistency you like, tasting as you process the mix, adding more salt to your preference.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this blog, one way of using this versatile spread is for a topping on baguettes slices with Parmesan sprinkled on top , then toasted.

Other Ideas,...

*It also makes a great pasta sauce when you blend it with a white sauce (As pictured).

*To use as a chip dip add a bit of sour cream, yogurt or kefir to thin it out,

*Mix it into scrambled eggs,

*Use as a topping on fish or meats

* Add to any number of recipes for flavor,…There are endless options to flavor your meals, just like regular pesto, with the bonus of additional health benefits! Enjoy!

Remember, feeling healthy and avoiding painful conditions is your choice in how you respond and approach the many obstacles presented in your life. Check out my book on this subject, "Harry the Mule & Other Injuries", where I share lighthearted stories about episodes in peoples lives,... and the wisdom gained from these experiences.

Now available on this website for a discount. You can also order on Amazon, or download the Kindle version. Thank you!

Best Wishes in Health, Always!

Karen A. Shupp, PT, Biologist, Modern Day Medicine Woman

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