Dandelions were first brought to this country by European colonists who used them to heal maladies of the liver, gall bladder, kidney and stomach. The herb was once known by the rather unsubtle moniker pissabed in reference to its powerful diuretic properties. This is also why it is commonly prescribed as an excellent blood-purifier.
Nicholas Culpeper in his 1653 work The Complete Herbal, praised the dandelion for its “opening and cleansing qualities” claiming it as “very effectual for the obstructions of the liver, gall and spleen.”
According to other ancient herbalists, this cleansing capacity makes it beneficial for “the sluggishness associated with heat and excess”, or what the Chinese traditional medicine practitioners might call “fire poison”.
Dandelion leaves are best harvested young, before the flower begins to bloom in order to avoid bitterness. Dandelion leaves are highly nutritious, one of the richest sources of beta-carotene of any plant while providing ample amounts of Vitamins B, C, D, and significantly more calcium and iron than spinach.
To prepare dandelion greens simply gather up the young leaves and 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 a rich pasta or rustic frittata of potatoes, onions, olives, cherry tomatoes and cheese.