Monday, March 17, 2008

Dandelion/ Løvetand

Taraxacum officinalis

Notice the first fine leaves of Dandelion in spring. They are high in vitamin A , C and iron - with more iron and calcium than spinach. They have a slightly bitter taste, but are good in a salad and fine together with eggs.

The Latin name Taraxacum officinalis derives from Greek taraxos (disorder) and akos (remedy) on account of the curative action of the plant. The name officinalis refers to its value as a medicinal herb. The Dandelion takes an important place as a honey-producing plant.

The English name Dandelion is from French dent de lion = lion's tooth, the same meaning in other European languages like the Italian dente di leone and Danish Løvetand. In Danish it has also another name Mælkebøtte referring to the milky substance in the stem.

Although it is considered a weed it does have several culinary uses. The leaves can be eaten cooked or raw in various forms such as in soup or salad - young leaves eaten raw in salads while older leaves are cooked. In spring many gather the new light green leaves for a salad. They give a fine salad and the flower buds can be pickled as capers. The Spanish soldiers at Funen in 1808 made a salad from the leaves with oil, vinegar and pepper. The leaves were often used in cabbage dishes.
Flowers were put upon beer to avoid the sour taste. The flowers are good for brewing a dandelion wine.

The first mention of the Dandelion as a medicinal plant is in the works of the Arabian physicians of the 10th and 11th centuries. On former days Dandelion Juice was the favourite preparation on both official and domestic medicine. It is a general stimulant to the system, but especially to the urinary organs, and is chiefly used in kidney and liver disorders. Used medicinally: the root fresh or dried and the young tops. The dried Dandelion leaves are also employed as an ingredient in many digestive or diet drinks and herb beers.

Folk Medicine: 
Henrik Smid 1546: a distillate from the herb for fever diseases and malaria, it subsides pain and cough, it calms and cools. The juice is good against stomach pain, a distillate from herb and root to bathe stained eyes. The fresh herb or a cloth soaked in distillate subsides pain in abscesses and limbs. Women used to bathe their face with the distillate to get a clear teint and to remove red spots.

The root and the whole plant was written in the Pharmacopoeia in 1772. The root is still sold in pharmacies. The plant is the best blood cleansing means, the young leaves have dissolving, diuretic and laxative properties. The young leaves eaten as a salad in spring works diuretic and antipyretic. Tea from the dried root against gouts. The flowers used as a compress draws out gout from the body. The root is an ingrediense of a tea against dropsy.

An extract from the fresh roots was still used in the 1900s as a diuretic and laxative. The juice of the plant was used against jaundice, the juice smeared upon scratches and small wounds. Extract from the plant was an ingrediense in a means against warts. In most of the country people thought it removed warts, it was also said to remove freckles. The milky latex has been used as a mosquito repellent, or applied to warts.

If the horses are grazing upon a field with many dandelions they will not get a cough, and their gallstones will disappear in four weeks.

The root digged up in the sign of Virgo and hung around the neck of animals and humans against pain in the eyes; dandelions and scabiosa around the child's neck as a protection against smallpox and following blindness; if people wore the dried root they were protected atgainst all evil powers and infectious diseases.

If the cows eat dandelions with the hay there was no butter in the milk. The trolls use the juice for cooking a magic ointment.

Other use: 

A yellow or green dye can be obtained from the flowers.
The leaves were also a replacement for the chewing-tobacco.

Coffee Surrogate
The use of roots as a coffee surrogate is mentioned in Danish literature after ab. 1800. During the Napoleonic wars 1807-14 many poor people in Copenhagen earned their living by gathering and cleansing the roots and sold them to the factories, where the roots were roasted and pulverized and then sold by the grocers. Outside Copenhagen people used burnt crushed rye kernels or peas, some used acorn. In 1837 was said that the root had been used as a coffee surrogate for a long time now and " it was desirable if it could replace the imported coffee, then we would avoid all those terribly neurotic individuals who exist now as a result of this exaggerated coffee drinking." In 1880-90 roots were gathered for coffee surrogate, but after the turn of the century dandelion was not used as coffee except in the two world wars.

If you could blow off all the fluff at once meant good luck.

photo 120308: grethe bachmann

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