Dandelion to the Test

Yesterday, my dog Boss and I went hiking in the James Peak Wilderness area.  While on the trail, I passed many medicinal plants native to Colorado.  The trail was dotted with Elder shrubs in flower, Raspberry, Plantain, Valerian, and the magnificent smelling Rose. And to no surprise, Dandelion was everywhere!  While I was itching to harvest fresh Valerian, I only spotted a small little patch.  I was taught to only harvest plants that are in abundance, so I decided to leave the Valerian in the ground.  So, Dandelion it is!

 Crater Lake, James Peak Wilderness

Crater Lake, James Peak Wilderness

To harvest Dandelion, a sharp and sturdy garden knife is necessary to get deep into the rocky, and undisturbed soil.  The tap root is much like a carrot, and to remove the root in full requires a bit of skill and coercing.  Be patient, and gentle to get as much of the plant as possible.  In the end, I took home about 5-6 Dandelion plants.  

 Dandelion leaves, root and flowers for a tincture.  

Dandelion leaves, root and flowers for a tincture.  

Initially, I washed the plants at a nearby mountain stream.  When I arrived home, I spent a good ten minutes scrubbing and washing the plants in my sink.  To save water, get a giant mixing bowl and fill it with water.  Do your scrubbing in the bowl,  Once the dirt is removed, a final wash with fresh water.  Now, time to process this wonderful medicinal plant.  

Dandelion Greens and Stems

I have tried dandelion leaf on several occasions.  Not a huge fan.  The leaves are just too bitter for my taste buds to handle more than a few bites.  But I didn't want to waste my harvest.  I sauteed the stems and leaves in butter with garlic and salt.  It was delicious.  The leaves were not bitter at all, and the stems had a great texture and flavor.  I think what was different this time compared to other attempts, was that I was cooking with a younger plant.  The older and bigger dandelion gets, the bitter it gets.  

 Sauteed dandelion stems and leaves

Sauteed dandelion stems and leaves

Next was the medicine.  Rather than focus on just the Dandelion Root, I wanted to do a whole plant tincture: flowers, leaves and root.  Dandelion is an ally to the liver and kidneys, a diuretic, and safe to consume.  All parts of the plant are edible, medicinal and full of energy from the sun.  So why not bottle that up?  

Because I am tincturing this fresh, grain alcohol is used.  When you tincture with dried herb, you add a mixture of alcohol and water.  When fresh plant material is used, and water makes up a vast majority of mass in the plant, more alcohol is needed to draw out the medicine.  

Cut up the plant into bite sized pieces, and pack into a mason jar about half full.  Pour grain alcohol over the herb until the liquid covers the plant material.  

Thanks for reading!  And how about a picture of Boss after a long hike in the woods?  Have a great day!