Gardening, Health and Beauty

Dandelion as a medicinal herb

Are dandelions weeds?

It’s early spring and dandelions (Taraxacum Officinale) are sprouting everywhere. Your first reflex is to pick them and discard them, to keep your lawn pristine. But don’t! Dandelions are very useful herbs for your home pharmacy, and every part of the dandelion has its own medicinal properties. Dandelion has been used for centuries in Europe, but it is also part of Chinese and Islamic traditional medicines, as well as Native American cultures. It is truly your garden’s overlooked treasure! Here are some of dandelion’s main benefits:

Benefits of dandelion

Dandelion root

Dandelion root is a powerful tonic and has long been used to support digestion and support the liver. It is a diuretic and thus it encourages kidney function. It is thus commonly used as part of a detox diet as it supports the liver and helps it cleanse itself through excretion of the bile. You can drink dandelion root as an infusion or decoction. It has a delicious nutty flavour and none of coffee’s side effects and addictive properties, so it is a perfect replacement for your morning brew. To collect your roots, look for young dandelions that have not yet flowered: they are easy to identify because of the distinctive shape of their leaves (dandelion comes from the French “dents de lion”, meaning lion’s teeth!). After that, the roots will shrink and get slightly bitter, so it’s better not to use plants with flowers.

How to make Roast dandelion root coffee?

Roasted dandelion roots

Collect a small handful of dandelion roots and rinse carefully. Place in the oven on medium heat (around 180°C) for about 20 mins. Then, prepare your decoction: place the roots in a small pan of water (about 2 cups of water), bring to boil and let simmer for about 10 minutes. Your decoction will take a brown colour. You can then add frothy milk, or drink straight as!

Dandelion tea
Dandelion latte!

Dandelion leaves and flowers

Leaves are usually taken as a tea: collect and clean a few leaves, leave them dry for a couple of days, and they can then be consumed as needed. They can also be eaten fresh as a salad as they are full of minerals, particularly iron, magnesium, manganese, calcium and copper.

The leaves are actually a stronger diuretic than the roots, and they can be very efficient in cases of water retention, or if you are feeling bloated. They act gently on the digestive system without leaving you dehydrated. It is also used for people with high blood pressure.

The flowers can be eaten fresh from your garden! They can be added to salads, and you can also gently fry young buds in a bit of butter. They add a pop of colour to your plate, and they are also a good source of flavonoids. They also contain lutein which is very important for eye health. Flowers can be used in a large variety of recipes: try making Indian fried pakoras or fritters for instance!

Gardening

Gardening – March : what to sow

What to sow in March?

March has to be one of the most exciting times in the year for gardening in the UK: after the cold winter months the weather gets warmer, daffodils and freesias flourish, and the soil heats up, ready for sowing. It’s time to go in the garden again !

Gorgeous Kew gardens in March
Gorgeous Kew gardens in March

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Carrot seeds

There is a whole lot of vegetables that you can sow in March : tomatoes in particular are great if you have enough sun, raddish is fast and easy, beetroot, onions, lettuce… Today we planted carrots, and a peony root. Carrots can be planted in pots or in the ground; we used a large square pot. Put a thick layer of soil, filling 2/3 of the pot, press down. Make holes in the soil with your finger, leaving space between each, add the seeds, and cover with soil. Carrots grow relatively fast: after 1 or 2 weeks seedlings appear, and they are ready to pull out after 10 weeks in average. I will let you know how our carrots grow!

Peony roots are generally planted in the autumn, but if you missed that window (as I did), imagesyou can plant at the beginning of spring. I love peonies and they are hardy plants, so perfect for someone like me who is not a great gardener. Plus they provide colour to a dull garden. Peony roots are oddly shaped; my daughter was fascinated by it. When you plant, make sure to put the ‘eye’ level with the soil. We planted it in a pot; make sure it has good drainage ( use stones at the bottom if needed) and add some compost to the soil as they require a rich soil. Place in full sun if possible, but peonies only require little watering.

IMG_7048That’s it for today!