Dandelions were first brought to the American Continent by European colonists who used them to heal maladies of the liver, gall bladder, kidney and stomach. The herb was known commonly as pissabed in reference to its powerful diuretic properties and was also employed by herbalists as a general blood-purifier.
Nicholas Culpeper in his 1653 work The Complete Herbal, touted dandelions for their “opening and cleansing qualities” claiming them as “very effectual for obstructions of the liver, gall and spleen.”
According to Culpeper and his peers, the cleansing capacity of the plant made teas and extracts of dandelion leaves a common prescription for “the sluggishness associated with heat and excess”, or what the Chinese traditional medicine practitioners might call “fire poison”.
Dandelion leaves are always best harvested young, well before the leaves become too fibrous and the flower begins to bloom. By harvesting only the tender you will also void much of the bitterness. Dandelion leaves are highly nutritious, and are one of the richest sources of beta-carotene among plants. They also provide ample amounts of Vitamins B, C, D, and even more calcium and iron than spinach.
To prepare dandelion greens simply toss them in a pan with a bit of good olive oil, sea salt, a squeeze of lemon and perhaps a smashed clove of garlic. You cmight also add a splash of aged balsamic vinegar, if available. Prepared in this way they make a wonderful accompaniment to both a rich cheesy pasta or aside a rustic frittata of, say, potatoes, onions, olives, cherry tomatoes and goat cheese.