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. Herbalists called it by the vulgar name pissabed in reference to the plant’s powerful diuretic properties that also account for its universal praise as a blood-purifier.
Nicholas Culpeper in his 1653 work The Complete Herbal, touted the dandelion for its “opening and cleansing qualities” claiming it was “very effectual for obstructions of the liver, gall and spleen.”
According to Culpeper and his peers, this cleansing capacity made teas and extracts of dandelion leaves beneficial 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, before the lelaves become too fibrous and the flower begins to bloom. By harvesting the leaves young you will avoid much of the bitterness of the leaves. Dandelion leaves are highly nutritious, in fact one of the richest sources of beta-carotene among plants and providing ample amounts of Vitamins B, C, D, plus more calcium and iron than spinach.
To prepare dandelion greens quickly 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 could also add a splash of aged balsamic vinegar if available. Prepared this way they make a wonderful accompaniment to both a rich pasta or a rustic frittata of, say, potatoes, onions, olives, cherry tomatoes and goat cheese.