In this blog series you will find historical information and recipes about the most commonly used kitchen herbs. They do not only add flavour, but they also make a positive impact on our health and well-being. To find out more about other kitchen herbs, please type ‘cooking with herbs’ into the search box.
Dandelion – Taraxacum officinale
Dandelions often grow in lawns and that is a reason why most gardeners see dandelions as a garden pest that spoils their perfect lawn. Only a few people know that the dandelion plant is actually a very useful and healthy kitchen herb.
Its name comes from the French ‘dent de lion’ which means ‘lion’s tooth’. It refers to the shape of the leaves which vaguely resemble lion’s teeth. In the English folklore dandelion is often referred to as ‘piss a bed’, because it has such a strong diuretic effect. That is the reason why dandelion leaves and teas should be used as part of a successful weight loss regime. The dandelion tea is blood cleansing, clears the kidney and bladder and ‘make you go to the loo’. The same effect, if a bit milder, is achieved when eating the fresh dandelions leaves, for example as part of a spring/early summer salad.
The golden flowers need to be harvested before they turn to white blooms that disperse in the wind. Then they can be used to make dandelion honey (please see recipe below) and picked when still yellow, it won’t self-seed as much, keep the dandelion population in check.
The dandelion root is mainly used in form of tinctures for ailments such as gout, rheumatism, as a blood cleanser and for people who suffer from diabetes.
Spring salad bowl:
Take a handful of lettuce, a handful of young spinach leaves, a few leaves of dandelion and mix together with a few cherry tomatoes and slices of cucumber. Then add a few leaves of chopped dandelion leaves. Finally crumble some feta cheese on top and add a dressing of your choice.
My favourite dressing is: 1 tbsp olive oil, 1 tbsp of apple cider vinegar, 1 tsp of dijon mustard and some pressed garlic, add a few drops of water, mix all together in a jar and add to the salad.
It is quick and easy to do. Dandelion honey is a good alternative to plain white sugar when it comes to sweeten your tea, breakfast porridge or you can even bake with it. Why not ask your children to make it with you, as they can help you gather the bright yellow flowers.For a couple of jars of dandelion honey you will need:
- 150/200 dandelion heads, 1 kg of jam sugar or brown sugar, juice of a lemon. A couple of sterilised glass jars. The easiest way is to collect used jam jars and then boil them in a big pot for a couple of minutes to sterilise them, finally leave them to dry on a kitchen towel. Ideally do this the morning before filling them, so they are still very clean.
- Collect the dandelion heads from your garden and get rid of the green stalks. Then put the flower into a cooking pot and add about 1 litre of cold water.
- Cook the dandelion heads briefly until the water reaches boiling point. Then take the pot off the fire and leave to stand for 24 hours.
- The next day strain the cold mixture through a sieve into another cooking pot. It will leave you with a ‘yellow looking water’. Add about 1 kg of brown sugar (you can also use jam sugar if you don’t want your honey to be runny). Now cook the mixture, whilst occasionally stirring, until it reaches boiling point. Then reduce the flame slightly and cook for another few minutes. At the end, stir in the lemon juice and take off the heat.
- Fill the hot mixture into the sterilized jars and cover the jars with cling film. Leave the jars open until the mixture has cooled down and the put the lid on over the cling film. When stored in a cool, dark place it will keep for a couple of months.