Dr. Brooks Tiller is an American Ninja Warrior competitor, adventure athlete, speaker and author. He has traveled the globe as a physical therapist, strength coach and movement specialist; coaching Olympic and professional athletes to increase their performance physically and mentally. Tiller lives in Tennessee with his wife and two children.
Growing up, we were told to eat our greens. While we may not have always enjoyed them, they do provide some great nutrition. And one of the most nutritious greens we can eat is found right in our yard - the notorious dandelion!
Now, before you think I am taking you too far out in the weeds, put down your weed killer and hear me out.
While most see dandelions as a nuisance that needs to meet the business end of our weed killer, they are a great source of nutrition and an excellent introduction to foraging. Dandelions are present in the U.S. because European settlers brought them here as a salad green. So instead of spraying it, pick it and eat it!
Today you can often find dandelion in several forms at organic grocery stores and some farmers markets. But instead of buying it, we can just harvest some as we chase turkeys this spring.
“What is a weed? A plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered.” - Ralph Waldo Emerson
- Dandelions have countless health benefits and contain a treasure trove of minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants.
- One half cup contains more calcium than a glass of milk.
- One half cup has more iron than spinach.
- One half cup contains 10 mg of Vitamin C.
- Leaves contain more vitamin A than carrots. 55 mg of leaves contain 535% of daily value.
- Very high in antioxidants and contain essential minerals including potassium, folic acid, magnesium, fiber.
- Contain more beta-carotene than most fruits and vegetables.
- High amount of lutein which is important in eye health.
- Dandelions are a diuretic that can help to cleanse our body of toxins.
- Dandelion has been documented as being used as a liver and blood cleanser as far back as the ancient Celts.
- It is a mild laxative.
Foraging For Dandelions
Dandelions are a great introduction to foraging as they are very common and easily recognizable. Many foragers and herbalist consider it the safest plant to harvest.
Dandelions have a very unique look. Really no other plant or herb that resembles the dandelion. We are all familiar with the jagged leaves and bright yellow flowers that spring up in our yard. It’s name is derived from French - dents de loin – because the leaves resemble a lion’s teeth which helps with identification.
The leaves and the roots have a great capacity to collect toxins. The bad side is that if they have been sprayed or are close to a road, they can contain toxins and be very bitter. But on the upside, if you harvest dandelions from an unsprayed, unpolluted spot, they will absorb toxins in your body and help to detoxify and cleanse you.
The youngest leaves, those located closest to the inside, are the sweetest with the older outside leaves being the most bitter. The best leaves come from the plants that have not produced the bright yellow flower. They are best fresh but will keep for a couple days in the fridge. You can even eat them as soon as you pick them as long as they are in an unpolluted and unsprayed area.
A plant that has just produced a crown that is just about to bloom, pick it! Crowns are the sweetest part of the plant. The flowers are edible and pretty sweet but the green base can be very bitter, so it is important to separate the flower from the green base.
Roots are a little more difficult to harvest but can be used as a replacement for your morning cup of coffee.
Harvesting the root in the spring provides you with the most nutrition as the plant stores its minerals and vitamins in the root during the cold months and is found abundantly in the root in the spring.
To harvest the tops of dandelions use a knife to slice the plant a few inches below the top of the root. This will keep the leaves together in a cluster. Cut the flower just above the green base as the flower is sweet but the green base can be bitter. To harvest the root, use a small shovel to dig down around the deep running root.
As true gamekeepers, we need to cherish and even cultivate dandelions not only for our own personal health but for the health of the soil and wildlife. Many wildlife will utilize dandelions to help with sickness and to eliminate toxins. Dandelions have a strong deep taproot thus breaks up compacted soil and makes great pathways and perfect soil for earthworms. Dandelion root pulls up nutrients locked deep in the subsoil into its leaves.
Dandelion coffee recipes
- Once you’ve dug up a fair-sized pile of dandelion roots, wash them in the sink or in a bucket of water. They’ll be full of dirt, so you’ll likely have to scrub them a few times to get all the dirt off.
- While you’re washing, preheat your oven to 250 degrees.
- Once the roots are clean, chop them into small chunks. Then put them in a bowl of water and scrub them one more time.
- Place the roots on a cookie sheet and put them in the oven to dry. Leave the oven door open slightly to let moisture escape. You’ll want to stir them frequently to make sure they’re drying evenly and they don’t burn. The drying process will take at least two hours. As the roots dry, they’ll shrink and turn to a pretty brown color.
- Once the roots are roasted, let them cool completely. Then, store them in a sealed glass mason jar.
To make the coffee, use 1 teaspoon of roots for every cup of water. You can put them in the coffee pot or put them in a tea infuser and add boiling water. In my opinion, adding hot milk takes away the slight bitterness and makes for a truly wonderful cup of dandelion coffee!
- Using a small shovel dig up the long tuber and after washing the dirt off, just chop them into thin slices like a carrot. Dehydrate the root for about an hour. (You can skip this step if you do not have a dehydrator.)
- Chop the dandelion into small pieces and spread evenly on a baking sheet.
- Bake for 30 minutes at 400 degrees. Keep an eye on them as they should get brown and dried but not burn.
- Let cool and then grind into a powder.
- Spread the powder on the baking sheet and bake for 5 minutes at 350 degrees.
To make the coffee, place 6 tablespoons of grinds into 500 ml of boiling water. Let steep for 30 minutes. Strain or use a french press. Add a dollop of ghee or a spoonful of coconut oil.
It is caffeine free and contains more antioxidants and nutrients than regular coffee. It is bitterer than coffee tasting similar to a New Orleans style chicory coffee.