The first Spring food for Honey Bees
Spring is on its way, yes right around the corner. I’ve been hearing more birds lately and before we know it, we will be seeing Honey Bees on our favorite plants. Did you know that the Dandelion is one of the first sources of food for the bees? These bees are so important to us and our plants. They are responsible for pollinating so many of our flowers, fruits and vegetables. It’s a shame that we have been taught to think of the Dandelion as being a plant to try to get rid of. We should be recognizing it as a helpful plant with many benefits, and be thankful for it. Dandelion is also a very nutritious food as well as a medicine.
Dandelion is a perennial in the Aster family. This plant was brought to America by the early settlers. It was used as a food source but also as a medicine. It grew easily and soon was found everywhere. It is now found in fields, along country roads, city sidewalks and of course your own front lawn. I have even been finding dandelion leaves at my local grocery store lately.
Where is the best place to find Dandelion?
You can take a nice walk in the woods, and when you come upon a field full of these little yellow beauties, you can take a few home for your salad. You can forage with a small tote bag and bring home enough to make a tonic, an infused oil or a syrup. Always be sure to harvest ethically and responsibly. Ask the plant permission, only harvest a tiny fraction of what is in front of you and always leave a thank you gift. A few strands of hair is a wonderful gift.
Dandelion has many uses
Dandelion is known as a bitter herb. The leaves can be used to make a nice spring tonic. The tonic will help improve digestion and flush excess fluid from the body. The root of the plant stimulates bile production and circulation in the liver. It also is very helpful with removing toxins from the body. The hollow tube stem is full of a white, milky liquid. This liquid is a natural latex that dissolves warts when applied topically. If you have a latex allergy you should probably do a skin patch test first to check for sensitivity. The flower of the Dandelion plant is known to support eye health.
Dandelions are very mineral and vitamin rich. They are packed with calcium, phosphorus, iron, thiamin, potassium, vitamins A, B, C, D, G and E protein and fiber. The dandelion leaf has a slightly bitter taste (less in the early spring) and slightly salty due to its high mineral content.
How to use Dandelions
There are several ways to incorporate this plant into your eating habits this spring. Dandelion greens are more enjoyable in the spring, they are less bitter. When mixed with other herbs and vegetables you won’t even notice. Putting them on a sandwich like you would spinach is a great way to eat more. The roots are more bitter and stimulating in the spring, but more nourishing in the fall when they are higher in starches and inulin. You can eat the heads and leaves in a cold salad. Sauté the greens with a little lemon juice and olive oil and even incorporate them dried into desserts like cakes and cupcakes. Dandelion, Pear and Honey Syrup is great on oatmeal, pancakes even yogurt.
How Dandelion can help your pet
Dandelions are so good for you to eat but adding them into your dogs diet is also a great idea. You can make a tea or tonic that will help support the liver and create a less acidic environment in the urinary tract.
Ivy’s favorite way to eat Dandelions is fresh or dried sprinkled on her food or as a gravy made from tea. I usually make her tea with the dried leaves and pour it onto her food. Ivy is tiny, 5 lbs so I don’t give her very much. If you have a larger dog you can sprinkle 1 teaspoons (for 20 lbs of weight) of dried dandelion right on their food. You may want to give just a little at a time just in case your pet is sensitive to it. Dandelion root is a known digestive and liver tonic. Using the leaves in a tea will add wonderful vitamins and minerals to your pets food.
A great source to buy dried herbs is Mountain Rose Herbs. They have a wonderful supply of ethically harvested and organic plants to choose from. I use them often. This is a great option if you are not able to forage for your own plants or buy locally from an herbalist.