Monthly Feature APRIL 2013
Spring is one of the most exciting times of year for gardeners and herbalists. We watch leaves break dormancy on trees and shrubs, bulbs start to show new shoots, perennials return and it’s time for working the soil in our garden beds and containers from last year. New plants are seeded and we are optimistic about the future!
Herbalists and others in the know also watch for certain wild herbs that can be used for our health.
For centuries, as we know, plants have been used for health and medicine. No herbs are more useful than the ones that show up in Spring and are used to reinvigorate our bodies after the Winter. In countries with very cold winters and limited food availability, Spring Tonics were especially important.
Today, of course, we have a wide range of produce and other foods available to us year-round. That doesn’t mean, however, that our bodies don’t still react in a positive manner to the Spring herbs for good health and nutrition.
Some of the most common, healthy Spring herbs are Dandelion, Nettles, Cleavers and Chickweed.
Dandelion- Taraxacum officinale
Dandelions are ubiquitous. We’re seeing them now, as Spring is in full swing here in my part of Texas. Folks up north, where the weather is still cold, will have to wait a bit for their spring Dandelions. Why Dandelions? They are considered a mild bitter herb used to stimulate the appetite and promote digestion, as a blood cleanser and diuretic. Dandelions can be harvested from areas where you know no pesticides have been used and cooked like any leafy green- steamed, braised or used in soups, pesto and soups.
You can also make a Dandelion Tea using about 1/2 tsp. freshly dried leaves per cup of water. Steep for 10 minutes and drink about 3 times throughout the day to stimulate digestion and aid in liver function.
There are cultivated varieties of Dandelion bred for food. I’ve grown Italian Dandelions from John Sheepers Kitchen Garden Seeds: Catalogna Dandelions: 60-65 days Catalogna is an early open-pollinated variety with long, deeply-cut, bright green frilly leaves. If you want to harvest it as a ‘cut and come again’ crop, sow heavily and thickly. But be forewarned, they will bolt in hot weather and become unpleasantly bitter. We enjoy pairing it with other greens in rustic salads topped with a warm, pancetta balsamic vinegar reduction dressing and homemade croutons. (OP.)