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J. E. Kinghorn

Taraxacum Officinale Weber

The yellow flowered, jagged leafed plant derives its name, Dent de Lion, by the resemblance of the toothy leaves to the teeth of the Lion.

The prolific dandelion is a familiar weed and a nemesis to the individuals who want an unblemished green lawn.   It wasn't very long ago when the lowly Dandelion  was respected as a  medicinal plant and a  source of food.

I can remember, as a youngster, my best friend and I were sent out in the fields of her parents farm to gather `a mess' of  dandelions greens.  Once we had a sufficient amount, we would wash the plants, cut away all the spotted or yellow leaves, and cook in a large pot with a `hunk' of salt pork.  Her Grandfather was especially fond of this dish.  I found them a slight bit bitter but with the addition of butter they were tolerable.  Butter substitutes were unheard of on the farm.  My palate matured and now I eat and enjoy many greens like swiss chard, beet greens and spinach without loading it with butter.  I don't think there is  a household with a small child that doesn't have a water glass full of dandelions sitting on the table in the Springtime.  I still get spring bouquets, now from my grandchildren and still enjoy seeing their bright little faces as they give me  their hand picked gift.

The roots are valued for medicinal uses.  It is very rich in vitamin A and contains potassium.   Modern Herbal's claim that it is a simple bitter and mild laxative, but in the past it was used as a hepatic, diuretic, digestive aid and  to promote the flow of salvia.  Dandelion tea was used to aid `dropsy.'
In Chinese medicine, it's used as a `blood cleanser,'  an all purpose tonic, digestive aid and used externally as a poultice to snake bites.

The roots should be gathered between June and August when they are at their peak bitterness.  Split the root lengthwise prior to drying.  Dried root should be stored in a cool dry place.  Prepare a tonic using the decoction method.  This process boils plant material in water; however it takes more heat than a simple infusion of leaf parts to extract the oils.  General rules are one ounce of dried herb to one pint of water.  Never use an aluminum pot. Use glass, Ceramic, earthenware or  enamel  metal pot.  Break the dried plant parts into small pieces. Boil covered for about 10-15 minutes, strain while hot.  This will complete the process.  The result will be a strong tea.  Store in refrigerator.  
Dandelion Wine'
This popular drink, used as a tonic in the Blue Ridge Mountain States can `cure what ails ya.'

(1) Gal. Boiling water poured over (1) Gal. Of dandelion flowers. Let stand until flowers rise(24-48 Hrs.).  Strain into stone jar-Add Juice of (4) lemons-(4) oranges plus (4 lbs. Sugar)-(1) yeast cake. Stir four or five times per day until fermenting action stops.  Keep tightly covered and in two weeks strain, bottle and cork.  

Spring is on the way and so is the dandelions.  Perhaps you will look at the lowly dandelion in a `new light' but somehow I think not.

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