Dandelion herb, revered since earlier times, is one of the most sought-after green-herbs to enliven your daily meals. Almost all the parts of the plant; leaves, flower tops, and roots found use as culinary greens or as a curative remedy for certain medical ailments.
Botanically, Dandelion belongs to the family of Asteraceae; in the genus "Taraxacum," and known scientifically as Taraxacum officinale. Some of the common names for these greens are priest's crown, Irish daisy, monk's head, blowball , and lion's tooth.
|Dandelion herb-Note golden yellow flowers and lion tooth like pinnate leaves. Courtesy: John Tann|
Dandelion is believed to have originated in Central Asia from where it becomes naturalized in many parts of the temperate and semi-tropical regions including the Mediterranean. It is a very hardy plant that grows vigorously everywhere in the fields, lawns, and meadows. It features an elongated, stout taproot from which long-jagged dark-green leaves arise directly from the soil in a radiating fashion.
Golden yellow color flowers appear at the end of hollow-stalks by late spring to early autumn. Its hollow flower stalks filled with sweet-scented nectar, attracting bees. Flower-stalks rise straight from the root.
A fully grown-up plant reaches about 45 cm in height. Almost all parts of the plant exude milky, Navajo-white color latex from the injured site.
Dandelion root is a dark brown, stout, fusiform, and fleshy taproot. Inside, its meat appears somewhat like that of root yam. Dandelion root indeed carries a higher amount of bitter, milky-latex than the stems and leaves.
To harvest, roots are pulled out off the ground when the plant turns into its second year of life. In general, roots meant for medicinal purposes are collected in the summer. They further allowed to dry and gathered by autumn for the preparation of a beverage (milled to prepare coffee).
Certain chemical compounds in fresh dandelion greens, flower tops, and roots are known to have antioxidant, disease-preventing, and health-promoting properties.
Besides, its latex is an excellent laxative. These active principles in the herb help reduce weight and control cholesterol levels in the blood.
Dandelion root, as well as other plant parts, contains Taraxacin, a bitter crystalline principle, and Taraxacerin, an acrid resin. Further, the root also contains inulin (not insulin) and levulin. Together, these compounds are responsible for various therapeutic properties of the herb.
Fresh dandelion greens carry 10,161 IU of vitamin-A per 100 g (about 338% of daily recommended intake), one of the highest sources of vitamin-A among culinary herbs. Vitamin-A is an essential fat-soluble vitamin and antioxidant required for maintaining healthy mucosa and skin.
Its leaves are packed with numerous health-benefiting flavonoids such as carotene-ß, carotene-a, lutein, cryptoxanthin, and zeaxanthin. Consumption of natural foods rich in vitamin-A and flavonoids (carotenes) helps the human body protect from lung and oral cavity cancers. Zeaxanthin is supposed to possess photo-filtering functions and therefore, may help protect the retina from harmful UV rays.
It is also rich in many vital vitamins including folic acid, riboflavin, pyridoxine, niacin, vitamin-E and vitamin-C that are essential for optimum health. Vitamin-C is a powerful natural antioxidant. Dandelion greens provide 58% of daily recommended levels of vitamin-C.
Dandelion is probably the richest herbal sources of vitamin-K; provides about 650% of DRI. Vitamin-K has a potential role in bone strengthening by promoting osteoblastic activity in the bones. It also has established role in the treatment of Alzheimer's disease patients by limiting neuronal damage in the brain.
The herb is an ideal source of minerals like potassium, calcium, manganese, iron, and magnesium. Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids which helps regulate heart rate and blood pressure. Iron is essential for red blood cell production.The human body uses manganese as a co-factor for the antioxidant enzyme, superoxide dismutase.
Dandelion herb contains notable nutrients and is a great source of nutrition during winter. This humble backyard herb provides (% of RDA/100g)-
9% of dietary fiber,
19% of vitamin B-6 (pyridoxine),
20% of Riboflavin,
58% of vitamin C,
338% of vitamin A,
649% of vitamin K,
39% of iron and
19% of calcium.(Note: RDA-Recommended daily allowance)
|Principle||Nutrient Value||% of RDA|
|Total Fat||0.70 g||3%|
|Dietary Fiber||3.50 g||9%|
|Pantothenic acid||0.084 mg||1.5%|
|Vitamin A||10161 IU||338%|
|Vitamin C||35 mg||58%|
|Vitamin E||3.44 mg||23%|
|Vitamin K||778.4 µg||649%|
In many parts of the Mediterranean, it is grown as an annual crop or sometimes as a garden herb. Often fresh dandelion greens can be gathered from the fields, as a wild herb. However, it is better selected from the known sources like farmer's markets.
In the markets look for fresh, succulent, soft young leaf tops. Fresh leaves are superior in flavor and rich in many vital vitamins and anti-oxidants like ß-carotene, vitamin-C, and folates. Once at home, store the greens in plastic bags and place in the vegetable compartment as in other greens like spinach, kale, etc.
Fresh greens and flower tops have been in use in cooking since ancient times. Pre-washed greens blanched in boiling water for a minute or so and cooled immediately by plunging into the ice-cold water. Blanching reduces bitterness.
Here are some serving tips:
Fresh greens may also be used in soups, stews, juices, and as cooked leafy vegetables.
Dried greens, as well as flower parts, used to make tonic drinks and herbal dandelion tea.
Dandelion flowers can be used in the preparation of wines, schnapps, pancakes; and favored in Arab baking.
Gently roasted and ground root can be used to make wonderfully delicious dandelion coffee.
Dandelion root concentrate (eden yansen) is also employed in Japanese cooking.
Almost all the parts of the dandelion herb found a place in various traditional as well in modern medicine.
Certain principle compounds in the herb have laxative and diuretic functions.
The plant parts have been used as herbal remedy for liver and gallbladder complaints.
Dandelion herb is also a good tonic, appetite stimulant and is a good remedy for dyspeptic complaints.
Traditionally, flower stems used as a soothing agent for burns and stings (for example in stinging nettle allergy).
Although dandelion herb contains some bitter principles, it can be safely used in healthy persons without any reservations. However, in patients on potassium-sparing diuretic therapy, it may aggravate potassium toxicity. The dandelion herb can also induce allergic contact dermatitis in some sensitive individuals. (Medical disclaimer).
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