By most, this is considered a weed. We consider them as that annoying plant that is usually found between the cracks of a sidewalk or laying comfortably in a yard or on your lawn where it’s unwelcome.
Lion’s tooth; Priest’s crown; Swine’s snout; to name a few.
Botanically, it belongs to the family of Asteraceae; of the genus of Taraxacum and known scientifically as Taraxacum officinale.
- The Latin name Taraxacum originates in medieval Persian writings on pharmacy. The Persian scientist Al-Razi around 900 (A.D.) wrote “the tarashaquq is like chicory”.
- The Persian scientist and philosopher Ibn Sinaaround 1000 (A.D.) wrote a book chapter on Taraxacum.
- Gerard of Cremona, in translating Arabic to Latin around 1170, spelled it tarasacon.
The English name, dandelion, is a corruption of the French dent de lion meaning “lion’s tooth”, referring to the coarsely toothed leaves. The plant is also known as blowball, cankerwort, doon-head-clock, witch’s gowan, milk witch, lion’s-tooth, yellow-gowan, Irish daisy, monks-head, priest’s-crown and puff-ball.
Dandelions are thought to have evolved about thirty million years ago in Eurasia. They were introduced to
North America by early European immigrants.
They have been used by humans for food and as a herb for much of recorded history. Revered since earlier times, Dandelion herb is one of the most sought after herbs to enliven our daily meals. Almost all the parts of the plant, leaves, flower tops, and root, are being used either for culinary purpose or as curative remedy for certain medical conditions.
Hundreds of species of dandelion grow in the temperate regions of Europe, Asia, and North America.
Dandelion is a hardy perennial, that of a fully-grown plant reaches about 45 cm in height. It features long stout taproots from which long jagged dark green leaves rise directly from the ground surface in radiating fashion. Dandelions have deeply notched, toothy, spatula-like leaves that are shiny and hairless.
Dandelion stems are capped by bright golden yellow flowers that arise at the end of hollow stalks. Flower-stalks rise straight from the root. The hollow flower stalks are filled with sweet scented nectar attracting bees. The grooved leaves funnel rain to the root.
The root is stout, fusiform and fleshy, dark brown externally and white pulp inside somewhat yam-like. The dark brown roots are fleshy and brittle. It contains bitter milky latex; more concentrated than in stems and leaves, that is bitter and slightly smelly. Roots are generally dug when the plant turns second year of life. Generally, roots are harvested in summer for medicinal purposes or autumn for drying and grinding for coffee.
Dandelions barely smell, and what aroma they have seems more grassy than floral. A very gentle soothing aroma, richly understated flavours and mildly earthy notes.
Its flavour is light and refreshing with a toasted note . The flower petals fortunately lack the bitterness of the rest of the plant.
Health Benefits of Dandelion
Historically, dandelion was prized for a variety of medicinal properties, and it contains a wide number of pharmacologically active compounds.
Dandelion is a rich source of vitamins A, B complex, C, and D, as well as minerals such as iron, potassium, and zinc.
Minerals: Calcium – Chromium – Iron – Magnesium – Manganese – Phosphorus – Potassium – Sodium – Selenium – Silicon – Zinc
Leaves: bitter glycosides, carotenoids (including lutein and violaxanthin), terpenoids, choline, potassium salts, iron and othe minerals, Vitamins, A, B, C, D (the vitamin A content is higher than that of carrots).
- Traditionally, dandelion roots and leaves were used to treat liver problems.
- In traditional Chinese medicine, dandelion has been used to treat stomach problems, appendicitis, and breast problems, such as inflammation or lack of milk flow.
- In Europe, it was used in remedies for fever, boils, eye problems, diabetes, and diarrhea.
- Native Americans also boiled dandelion in water and took it to treat kidney disease, swelling, skin problems, heartburn, and upset stomach.
- Herbalists use dandelion root to detoxify the liver and gallbladder, and dandelion leaves to support kidney function.
- Dandelion leaves act as a diuretic, increasing the amount of urine the body produces.
- The leaves are used to stimulate the appetite and help digestion.
- Dandelion flower has antioxidant properties.
- Dandelion may also help improve the immune system.
- Fresh or dried dandelion herb is also used as a mild appetite stimulant and to improve upset stomach.
- The root of the dandelion plant may act as a mild laxative and has been used to improve digestion.
- Some claim that the milky sap from the stems can be placed on warts several times a day, dry out and disappear.
9% of dietary fiber,
19% of vitamin B-6 (pyridoxine),
20% of Riboflavin,
58% of vitamin C,
338% of vitamin A,
649% of vitamin K,
39% of iron and
19% of calcium.
Buying and Storing of Dandelion
Dandelion herbs and roots are available fresh or dried in a variety of forms, including tinctures, liquid extract, teas, tablets, and capsules. Dandelion can be found alone or combined with other dietary supplements.
In the markets look for fresh, succulent, soft young leaf tops. Fresh leaves are superior in flavour and rich in many vital vitamins and anti-oxidants like B-carotene, vitamin C and folates.
Once at home store the greens in plastic bags and store in vegetable compartment as you would with spinach, kale etc.
One can grow them and harvest them; With one hand, snap off a head. With the other hand, pinch off the bracts along with any remains of the stem, which will be oozing bitter white sap, and as much of the base of the flower and the green calyx as come away easily. Drop the rest into a bucket. Then wash, clean and pat dry. These will keep refrigerated for a few days in a sealed ziploc bag. (Excellent for making Dandelion wine)
Ideas for cooking with Dandelion
Fresh greens and flower tops have been used in cooking. Generally pre-washed greens are blanched in boiling water for a minute or so and cooled immediately by plunging into cold water. (Blanching reduces bitterness.)
Lightly roasted and grounded roots used to make wonderfully flavourful dandelion coffee.
Dried leaves as well as flower parts used to make tonic drinks and herbal dandelion teas.
Fresh greens may also used in soups, stews, juices, and as cooked vegetable.
Dandelion flowers used in the preparation of wines, schnapps, pancakes; and are favoured in Arab baking.
Super fresh in pesto, added fresh with olive oil and garlic, then seasoned.
Great in salads mixed with tomatoes and a sweet tasting vinaigrette.
Breaded or battered Dandelion flowers are a must, dipped in tempura batter then deep fried and seasoned; yumm!!
(you can find many types of batter – the simple flour & beer batter, or you can try bread crumbs, tempura crumbs or a batter that is later coated with cornflakes or crackers.)