Dandelion – Pissenlit
Traditionally Dandelion and Nettles are the two herbs used in spring to give our internal system a boost, following the winter period when one tends to have eaten heavier food . In folk medicine a lot of credence is given to the Dandelion. The Dandelion roots stimulate the liver and is seen as a cleansing tonic. When I lived in Belgium, people made herbal pancakes each spring made with Nettles and Dandelions.
It is a variable perennial with a taproot. It grows up to 30 cm tall. It has a basal rosette of toothed to lobed leaves. The flowers are solitary and appear from spring to autumn. The stems are hollow and contain a white liquid (latex). After flowering, ribbed fruits appear bearing tufts of fine white hairs.
Medicinally, herbalists used the Dandelion to treat gal stone problems and jaundice. It can help with constipation, chronic infection of the joints, eczema and acne. All parts of the plant are used: flowers, leaves harvested before flowering and roots in autumn.
It is rich in minerals: potassium, iron, manganese, zinc, copper and silicon. It contains pro-vitamin A, vitamin B2 and vitamin C, inulin, fructose and pectin, flavonoids and a bitter complex, called taraxacin. The bitter complex, inulin and other constituents have a stimulating effect on the secretion glands of the digestive system. The stomach wall, liver, pancreas, gallbladder and intestines function better; in addition it cleanses the system.
The following are some recipes by Mariëtte Clijsters-Reyners. She was a farmer’s wife deeply involved with herbs. She knew all local herbal cures, combined with traditional herbal recipes. She created a wonderful herb garden “Stukkenheidehof” in Bree (Opitter), county Limburg in Belgium. She would guide groups around her garden explaining what all the herbs were used for, the guided tour ending with a coffee or a cup of herbal tea, together with a piece of kruidkoek, her herb cake.
Kruidenpannenkoek (Herbal Pancake)
Ingredients: Pancake batter for 2, 1 soup spoon of Nettles (Urtica dioica), 1 soup spoon of Mugwort leaves (Artemisia vulgaris), 1 soup spoon of Dandelion leaves (Taraxacum officinale), 1 soup spoon of Tansy leaves (Tanacetum vulgare)
Mix the herbs through the batter. Fry the pancake as you normally do. Not only does it taste good, it is a health booster. You can vary the herbs you use. In Diest, in the county of Brabant, Belgium, Dandelion and Tansy were traditionally used. Another combination is Dandelion and Yarrow (Achillea millefolium).
Dig out the roots of Dandelions in autumn. Clean them with a small brush, let them dry in a dark, warm place. After a fortnight cut the root into very small pieces. Roast them in the oven at 175C for 1/2 hour. Grind them into a powder, put them back in a moderate oven for another 15 minutes. When making coffee use 3/4 normal coffee and 1/4 dandelion coffee.
Ingredients: 175 gr of Dandelion Leaves; 100 gr streaky bacon; 2 slices of bread; 1 clove garlic; 25 gr. butter; salt and pepper to taste; 3 tablespoons of olive oil; 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar.
As the Dandelion leaves get older they get more bitter. If there are passed their prime, remove the central vein and stalk. Cut the leaves in slices and put into a salad bowl. Fry the bacon until crisp. Remove from the frying pan. Cut the bread in cubes. Put the butter into the remaining fat, add the bread cubes and crushed garlic, fry until golden brown. Remove the bread cubes and drain on to paper towel. Make a dressing with the olive oil, white wine vinegar, salt and pepper. Pour over the Dandelion leaves. Mix the bacon and bread cubes through the salad.
Bibliography: RHS Encyclopedia of Herbs and their uses – Deni Bown; Fytotherapeutisch compendium – J. Van Hellemont; Herbal Medicines – Carol A. Newall, Linda A. Anderson, J. David Philipson; Handboek heilzame kruiden – Penelope Ody; Voedingsleer – Ir. J. Lambrechts; Kruiden Receptenboek – Mariette Clijsters – Reyners; Photos – Web.