History, Identification, & Uses of Dandelions

dandelion

Do you recognize this….this…..weed? Some of you may cringe at the sight of this plant popping up in your perfect, or not so perfectly, mowed lawn. Dandelions are actually really neat plants.

Dandelions are native to Greece. Crazy, right? They can grow just about anywhere the sun touches so they easily spread throughout Europe and then to the Americas when the English settlers sailed to the new land.

Dandelion is derived from the French word dent de lion meaning lion tooth. This comes from the tooth like leaves of the dandelion plant. It is also known by other names including pissabed, Irish daisy, bitterwort, puffball, cankerwort, and more.

Profile

Common Name: Common Dandelion
Scientific NameTaraxacum officinale
Identification:
Flower-Yellow, small, compact & abundant petals
Leaves-Green, deeply jagged “teeth,” rosette (circular) growth pattern,                                                      hairless
Flower Stem-Leafless, hollow, filled with a milky-white liquid
Length: Leaves up to 1.5 feet, Flower Stem up to 4-8 inches
Growing Time: Spring-Summer
Harvest Time: Leaves-Spring, Flowers & buds-early Spring, Roots-Spring &                       Autumn (dependent upon the properties wanted)
Parts Edible: All parts
Found: Throughout North America & Europe; lawns, fields, waste places

dandelion profile
Here you can see the flower head, stem, “teeth” leaves, and a bud not yet open.
dandelion seed
Dandelion at its seed stage

Historic Uses

-The leaves are often used in salad mixes and put on sandwiches and burgers
-Native Americans used dandelion to treat kidney disease, swelling, skin problems, heartburn, and upset stomach.
-Traditional Chinese medicine used dandelion to treat stomach problems, appendicitis, and breast problems.
-It was used in Europe to treat fevers, boils, eye problems, diabetes, and diarrhea.
-Leaf tea has been used as a mild laxative
-Dried root can be used as a coffee substitute

Vitamins, Minerals, & More

Contains:

  • potassium
  • calcium
  • lecithin
  • iron
  • magnesium
  • niacin
  • phosphorus
  • proteins
  • vitamins B, C, E, and P

-Leaf is a good source of potassium
-Leaves act as a diuretic (makes you pee more)
-Flowers are high in vitamin A
-Flowers have antioxidant properties

Preparations

-Fresh blossoms are used to make wines and salves
-Dried and fresh roots & leaves used to make tinctures
-Dried leaves & roots can be used in teas
-Used in making tinctures, liquid extracts, tablets, and capsules.

Precautions

Dandelion is generally considered safe, however…
-Stems, and possibly leaves, contain latex
-Recommended that you avoid dandelion if allergic to ragweed, chrysanthemums, marigold, chamomile, yarrow, daisies, or iodine
-Avoid dandelion/Consult a doctor before taking dandelion products if you are on antacids, blood-thinning medications, diuretics, lithium, ciprofloxacin, medications for diabetes and for liver issues. 

Harvest

-Harvest leaves in the spring to eat. They get bitter later in the season.
-Harvest roots in the spring for digestive properties. Harvest in the fall for carbohydrates.
-Harvest buds before or just as they begin to blossom to eat in salad
-Harvest early Spring flowers for salves and eating

Recipes

SAUTEED DANDELION GREENS
Dandelion Salve
Dandelion Wine, Coffee, Salad, Soup, & more
Dandelion and Lemon Paleo Cupcakes
Tempura Dandelion Flowers
Dandelion and Violet Lemonade
Dandelion Jelly
Rhubarb Dandelion Pie
Dandelion And Feta Tart
Dandelion Egg Noodles
Dandelion Tincture

Practicing Sustainable Wild Harvesting

  1. Only harvest plants you know are safe and can identify
  2. Only harvest plants in safe areas that are not contaminated or polluted
  3. Do not harvest on private property without permission
  4. Harvest no more than 10% or use the method: take 1 leave 2
  5. Know how to handle and prepare the plants you are harvesting
  6. Always check the legal status of the plant you want to harvest (is it endangered?)

Dandelion
Dandelion (Taraxacum Officinale)
– Wild Foods & Medicine: Dandelion
Dandelion-University of Maryland Medical Center
-Foster, Steven, and James A. Duke. Peterson Field Guide to Medicinal Plants and Herbs of    Eastern and Central North America. 3rd ed. N.p.: n.p., 2014. Print.

Disclaimer: All information provided is for education purposes only. I am not a doctor. If you wish to have advice on any medical problems, please consult a doctor. I cannot guarantee that any information provided will work for every person. Please consult a doctor before making any health changes.

Photos © Morgan Pencek, all rights reserved