Common Name: Dandelion
Scientific Name: Taraxacum officinale
Habitats: The dandelion is a very common weed of grassland and cultivated ground throughout most of the northern hemisphere.
Edibility: Leaves – raw or cooked. When used in salads, they are rather bitter, though less so in the winter. Tender young leaves are considerably less bitter than older leaves. The leaves are often blanched (by excluding light from the growing plant) before use. This will make them less bitter, but they will also contain less vitamins and minerals. A very nutritious food, 100g of the raw leaves contain about 2.7g. protein, 9.2g. carbohydrate, 187mg Calcium, 66mg phosphorus, 3.1mg iron, 76mg sodium, 397mg potassium, 36mg magnesium, 14000iu vitamin A, 0.19mg vitamin B1, 0.26mg vitamin B2, 35mg vitamin C. Root – raw or cooked. Bitter. A turnip-like flavour. Flowers – raw or cooked. A rather bitter flavour, the unopened flower buds can be used in fritters and they can also be preserved in vinegar and used like capers. Both the leaves and the roots are used to flavour herbal beers and soft drinks such as ‘Dandelion and Burdock’. The roots of 2 year old plants are harvested in the autumn, dried and roasted to make a very good coffee substitute. It is caffeine-free. A pleasant tea is made from the flowers. They are also used to make wine – all green parts should be removed when making wine to prevent a bitter flavour. The leaves and the roots can also be used to make tea.
Medicinal: The dandelion is a commonly used herbal remedy. It is especially effective and valuable as a diuretic because it contains high levels of potassium salts and therefore can replace the potassium that is lost from the body when diuretics are used. All parts of the plant, but especially the root, are slightly aperient, cholagogue, depurative, strongly diuretic, hepatic, laxative, stomachic and tonic. The root is also experimentally cholagogue, hypoglycaemic and a weak antibiotic against yeast infections. The dried root has a weaker action. The roots can be used fresh or dried and should be harvested in the autumn when 2 years old. The leaves are harvested in the spring when the plant is in flower and can be dried for later use. A tea can be made from the leaves or, more commonly, from the roots. The plant is used internally in the treatment of gall bladder and urinary disorders, gallstones, jaundice, cirrhosis, dyspepsia with constipation, oedema associated with high blood pressure and heart weakness, chronic joint and skin complaints, gout, eczema and acne. The plant has an antibacterial action, inhibiting the growth of Staphylococcus aureus, Pneumococci, Meningococci, Bacillus dysenteriae, B. typhi, C. diphtheriae, Proteus etc. The latex contained in the plant sap can be used to remove corns, warts and verrucae. The latex has a specific action on inflammations of the gall bladder and is also believed to remove stones in the liver. A tea made from the leaves is laxative. Additionally, a low quality latex, which can be used for making rubber, can be obtained from the roots of this plant, a magenta-brown dye is obtained from the root, and a distilled water made from the ligules (thin appendages at the base of the leaf blades) is used cosmetically to clear the skin and is particularly effective in fading freckles.
Care: A very easily grown perennial weed, it succeeds in most soils, though it prefers a well-drained humus-rich neutral to alkaline soil in full sun or light shade. A very hardy plant, tolerating temperatures down to at least -29°c. Dandelions can provide edible leaves all year round, especially if they are given a small amount of protection in the winter.
Symbiosis: A valuable bee plant and an important food plant for the caterpillars of many butterfly and moth species. A deep rooting plant, it has roots up to 1 metre long and brings up nutrients from lower levels of the soil. Grows well with alfalfa. Releases ethylene gas, which can stunt the growth of nearby plants and causes premature ripening of fruits. The flowers are an ingredient of ‘QR’ herbal compost activator. This is a dried and powdered mixture of several herbs that can be added to a compost heap in order to speed up bacterial activity and thus shorten the time needed to make the compost. A liquid plant feed can also be made from the root and leaves.
Personal Notes: “Like snakes, dandelions are usually under-appreciated and unfairly targeted for destruction. I believe the widespread aversion to dandelions is the result of mind control to get people to grow uselessly manicured lawns and to buy chemicals and other weapons of destruction. With a little mental jujitsu, dandelions can be appreciated for the way the greens blend in so well with the grass, the way the brilliant yellow flowers enliven the landscape and mark the advancing progress of spring, and the way the seeds offer hope that there’ll be even more of them next year.” ~ Rich