Originally posted 12/12/14
When dandelion does her trick, it feels like looking out newly cleaned windows (thank you liver clearing eye supporting medicine). She makes space to let a little more light in. As her energy moves down we release what we no longer need and with each letting go we feel our roots in the earth. Dandelion guides this journey downward. In the fall we become tired watching the leaves fall and the ancient desire for sleeping and dreaming comes. Stepping into the dreaming dimension we have the opportunity to choose to return and journey back to the heart of the earth. Our pilgrimage to sleep in the roots of mother earth facilitates an important aspect of the creative cycle. Without the dark space to rest and receive, to dream and imagine, to feed and to fast, we cannot be balanced in our pursuit of creation.
With dandelion’s bitterness comes a pairing with sweet. The component inulin helps the body maintain a steady blood sugar. Autumn is a natural time to be consuming more sweet foods. Eating starchy fall vegetables here in North America helps prepare the body for colder days. Dandelion is a wonderful digestive stimulant. Dandelion root reduces liver heat and inflammation. It is a tonic for the liver, kidneys, spleen, and stomach. The root can be used for more potent conditions like helping the body recover through chemotherapy or kidney stones, for example, but integrated on a regular basis dandelion root can be a nutritive and gentle balancer, helpful to reduce breast swelling, reduce PMS, stabilize blood sugar, reduce skin eruptions, and heal kidney and urinary tract infections.
The seasonal mood shift into winter can cause a desire for sweets too. We are coming to an ending. We want to remember the sweetness of spring and summer, but ahead there is a big winter bridge. When there is a sense of resignation, dread of the cold, dandelion can bring lightness of spirit and reminders to hope for the spring. Dandelion is like a lion curled up in a cave, vibrating to its own breath at peace in the dark. Napping under the earth’s surface, we will be covered with snow, a purifying layer of frozen water, which will melt and rebirth us into the next phase, the next spring. And under the snow while we lay dreaming at the roots of mother earth, we will dream our next self into being. The birthing and dying will be bittersweet.
Dandelion clears the channel between the solar plexus and the root chakra so that we can journey in both directions- to the heart of mother earth and to joy and sunshine of our true selves. The root has a stronger pull toward the root chakra, and the flower to the solar plexus. It also flows along and clears the energy channels between the first and third chakras allowing a flow in both directions. Through all this clearing and motion, space is also created for levity. Dandelion may bring out a bawdy boldness or a liminal laughter.
In the spring when we emerge again into the sun and feel new life reaching to the sun, dandelion is also there shining her cheerful yellow medallions, little suns on the ground. Like a good lion dandelion basks in the sun, taking in pure joy. And like a good lion, dandelion roams and hunts, its prey ultimately a deep feeding. So when dandelion takes us on a roam and a hunt, we need to lighten up, letting go of what weighs heavy in order to find what will feed us best, letting go so we can take in a better resource. Dandelion as a diuretic releases excess water and supports the liver to remove its waste. Dandelion makes more space in the body to hold the light of the sun, vital energy.
In observing the relationship between dandelion, the seasons, and energetics, I was naturally drawn to pair bitter dandelion with sweeter foods. Dandelion root would also be wonderful in making a stock or broth, as a tea with honey, and the infusion could be substituted for water in many cases such as in cooking grains or added to cooked beans, greens, etc. Using herbs and their preparations in cooking allows us to infuse another layer of flavor and intention into our food. These dandelion experiments are a small beginning. I encourage you to experiment and share your favorite recipes. The possibilities are endless: dandelion fudge, dandelion pecan pie, dandelion braised chicken, and please don’t forget the dandelion wine. To get you started I made these dandelion recipes: dandelion decoction, dandelion quinoa risotto, dandelion sweet potatoes with lime yogurt, and dandelion maple custard. If you try them, let me know how they come out.
- 2 cups dandelion root
- 12 cups water
I typically do a 1:8 ration dandelion to water, but I want the decoction to be concentrated so I’m already taking that into account here. For an even stronger decoction, start with less water to dandelion root and follow the recipe from there.
Bring to a boil. Shut off heat. Let sit covered overnight. Strain and decoct to half the volume by letting the strained infusion steam at the lowest heat in a wide mouthed pot. It is helpful to mark the starting point or the goal point with a piece of tape on the outside of the pot so it’s easy to know the half volume goal has been reached.
DANDELION SWEET POTATOES WITH LIME YOGURT
- sweet potatoes, any variety, about 2 pounds scrubbed clean, cut into medium dice (If organic, peel if desired. I don’t peel them because I like the taste and texture of the skin. If using non-organic please DO PEEL).
- 2 T olive oil
- 1 cup dandelion decoction
- 1 tsp fine sea salt
- 1 T chili powder
- optional spicier version: add some cayenne anywhere from a sprinkle up to 1/2 tsp.
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Place diced sweet potatoes in a 9x13 baking dish. Mix oil, decoction, salt, and chili. Pour over sweet potatoes and stir to mix. Bake for at least an hour, checking them every 10-15 minutes until they are very soft in the middle. You should be able to cut a sweet potato easily with a butter knife.
- 1 1/2 cup organic whole plain yogurt (if you use Greek yogurt, the end product will be thicker and more protein rich but either is good)
- 1/2 tsp fine sea salt
- 1 T lime zest from 2-3 limes
- 2 1/2 T lime juice
Combine all ingredients in a small mixing bowl and whisk until well mixed. Taste and adjust salt and lime to taste.
You can also cut the sweet potatoes into different shapes such as the slices shown below and see the difference in how the liquid absorbs.
DANDELION MUSHROOM QUINOA RISOTTO
This recipe was inspired by risotto, though using quinoa it will not have the same texture. For a texture more similar to arborio rice try using barley. When using barley the mixture may need to be stirred more and you may need to adjust the quantity of water so the barley cooks without sticking to the pot. The quinoa has less of a tendency to stick.
- 2 T olive oil (or more to taste)
- 1 large yellow onion, small diced
- 3 large garlic cloves (or more to taste), minced
- 2 cups dandelion infusion
- 2 cups vegetable stock
- 1 cup shiitake mushrooms, chopped (I like to use the stem and the cap, removing the bottom of the stem and chopping the rest of the stem smaller because it is tougher.)
- 3 cups mushrooms such as cremini, maitake, portobello, or other mushrooms
- 3 1/2 cups quinoa
- water as needed
- black pepper
- 1/2 bunch parsley, about 1 cup, washed and chopped
- optional: grated parmesan cheese (or another aged cheese) for garnishing
In a large heavy bottomed pot, saute onion in olive oil on medium low heat. When the onions are soft, add the minced garlic, dandelion infusion, vegetable stock, mushrooms, and quinoa. Stir. Bring to a boil, stir, and turn down heat to low. Cook for about 30 minutes until quinoa is soft, stirring occasionally. Season with salt and pepper. Garnish with parsley and parmesan cheese if using.
- 2 3/4 cups organic whole milk (or raw if you have it)
- 1/2 cup maple syrup (any grade ok, I love grade B but grade A is more common)
- 1 cup dandelion decoction
- 1/2 tsp fine sea salt
- 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 4 eggs
In a large bowl, combine eggs, maple syrup, dandelion decoction, salt, and vanilla. In a small pot scald the milk (bring just to a boil and turn off immediately when the first boiling begins. You should be able to catch it before the milk boils so much that it foams up in the pot.) Temper the egg mix by adding the scalded milk in small amounts, approximately one or two tablespoons at a time until the egg mixture is warm and you have used about a third of the milk. Tempering prevents the curdling of the eggs and promotes a more consistent texture. After the egg mix is tempered, add the rest of the milk and whisk. Pour into 6 ramekins or an 8x8 glass pan. Set up a bain marie water bath by placing the ramekins or pan in a larger pan and filling the larger pan with water half way up the side of the pan or ramekins it holds.
Bake at 350 for 80 minutes. Remove from the oven. Remove from water bath (if it’s more convenient the custard can cool in the water bath for some time). After the custard cools to room temperature it can be covered and refrigerated. It tastes best after about 8 hours of refrigeration but will keep well for 3-5 days refrigerated.