“Mom, I’m trying to pull up this weed.” Trevor hollers across the garden and I can see he is working hard trying to twist and tug the earth to release its grip on one giant dandelion. I walk over and report that this is gonna be a hard one to pull, that I was saving these ones for Fall so they could get nice and big. I offer my help, Trevor hands me his tools.
After successfully loosening the dirt surrounding the root I begin excavating with my hands, the boys are ooing and awe-ing around me as I keep going. I start tugging when I am literally elbows deep in the earth, after some serious effort this dandelion lets loose and I pull it up. We take a look at the root, twice the size of my thumb in parts, and we notice I didn’t get the whole root, it broke off under the strain. The earth held onto a good portion of it.
We sat there in the wet garden, looking at the hole that had to be made to pull out the root of this one “weed”. I asked the boys why we would want to put something in our body that lives that far in the dirt. Trevor suggests perhaps the dirt is good for us. I agreed with him and tell him that we want to consume plants that have access to things our bodies don’t. This plant is so deeply grounded into the earth that it can literally tap into minerals and layers that we simply cannot. I wonder aloud to them if perhaps putting roots in our bodies could make us feel more deeply grounded.
The boys ran off to eat grapes at that point. When I say eat I mean pop gazillions of them in their mouth, chew, swallow the juice, spit the skins and seeds. This can entertain them for quite some time. It is comical for me to watch because it is almost as if they are confused about how they should feel about the grapes. On one hand, they love grapes and they extra love things that live in the yard. On the flip side, these are real grapes, the kind before genetic engineering rendered them ultra sweet and sterile. These grapes have seeds to procreate. These grapes have tannin rich skins that make your mouth pucker and gleek. These grapes have sweet, juicy insides that keep you coming back for more. There is always a massive spit line at the end of the Fall where they have stood and chewed and spit grapes for hours. I love it.
Anyway, back to the roots.
Half of what I learn about plants is from books and lectures. The other half is from observation. I have read many times about how root herbs are grounding, nourishing, or restoring. I "know" this already. Knowledge is one thing, experience is something completely else.
Yanking with all my might, covered in dirt to my elbows, in order to pull one dandelion root, told me this message in a way I won’t soon forget. I feel this way when I harvest potatoes too, covered in dirt, hands roaming through the earth. It is grounding, and nourishing, and restoring. Turns out consuming these plants is too.
Personally, I like my dandelion root roasted. This is of course sacrilege in some herbal parts but I am a big fan of what is doable and enjoyable. I find plain, dried dandelion root to be too bitter for me, when it is roasted I find it exceptionally delicious. Yes, the heat has broken down some of the medicinal compounds when it is roasted, but maybe I’ll drink twice as much because it is twice as delicious… who knows?
Dandelion root is an excellent liver herb and that is its primary use. Traditional Chinese Medicine considers dandelion root to have an affinity for the breast so it is used to support breast health as well as a galactagogue to stimulate breast milk production in lactating women. Dandelion root tea can be used to replace a coffee habit.
To make a simple dandelion root tea I like the ratio of 1 TBSP roasted dandelion root for each cup of water, simmer with lid on for 20 mins. Strain and serve sweetened as desired. I’m not above adding a splash of heavy cream and maple syrup to mine. Yummm.
Alternately, you can extract minerals well in vinegar. Therefore, making an herbal vinegar with fresh (cleaned) dandelion root is a great way to utilize this plant. An easy ratio is fill a pint jar with fresh, chopped dandelion root, top with apple cider vinegar - let sit for 2 weeks - shaking daily then strain and use within a year.
*If you decide to harvest your own dandelions please do so from an area that is not being sprayed and be sure you are getting the plant identification correct. Using a field guide is prudent.
To purchase roasted dandelion root use this link… Starwest Botanicals.