This time of year, there is much talk of spring tonics. Their purpose is to cleanse the body from the sludge of the heavy winter diet of meat, root vegetables, and very little fruit or greens. These days, with food shipped hundreds (or thousands!) of miles, many people's diets don't change that much seasonally, but still we behave differently based on the weather and season.
Winter holidays stuffed us with sweets. Very little sunlight, or desire to walk around outside, and even the viruses and bugs of the winter season have left us lethargic and sluggish.
Around here, the old-timers have always eaten their spring tonics as vegetables. That is not to say that tonics weren't prepared... it's just that whipping them into scrumptious dishes makes the medicine go down in a most delightful way.
When we put together "Wild Foods for Every Table" a couple of years ago (available here), the recipes for dandelion were the most prevalent of all the wild edible herb dishes submitted. After chickweed, they are one of the first to come up in the spring, so it would make sense that people long ago, hungry for some fresh greens, found many ways to prepare them and serve them to their families.
All parts of the dandelion are nutritious, helping to increase bile secretion and flush the liver, kidneys, and urinary tract. Dandelion is full of vitamins and minerals, helping to reduce water retention and swelling without depleting potassium. It can also help brighten and refresh the skin by getting those toxins moving through and out of the body.
So don't turn up your nose at the fabulously valuable dandelion! If it is growing nearby, give it a try. Snip the young leaves and add them to your salads, egg dishes, casseroles and pasta dishes. Pull the roots and roast them for a delicious beverage. As always, the price is right!