Common Dandelion – Weekly Weeder #17

Common dandelion, Taraxacum officinale - range and identification, food for humans and wildlife, medicinal uses of dandelion.

Today’s featured plant is the Common Dandelion, Taraxacum officinale.

The common dandelion is also known as Piss-in-bed, lion’s tooth, blow ball, fortune teller, red-seeded dandelion, arctic dandelion, doonheadclock, tell-time, clock flower, bitterwort, yellow gowan, swine snort, Irish daisy, wet-a-bed, priest’s crown, cankerwort, puffball and wild endive. (I think “swine snort” is my favorite.)

Dandelion flowers, leaves and roots

Dandelion flowers, leaves and roots

Range and Identification of Common Dandelion

Is there anyone who doesn’t know what a dandelion looks like?  Their bright yellow flowers are some of the first to show in spring, as many a mother can testify, having been presented with dandelion bouquets.  Interestingly enough, according to Wildflowers of Wisconsin, the “flower” head is a composite of many tiny flowers clustered together.

The leaves form a basal rosette, and are deeply loped with pronounced teeth.  Plants range from a few inches to over a foot tall, depending on growing conditions. the stems are hollow and produce a milk-like, sticky sap. At maturity, the flower heads turn to a white puff ball, and release seeds that resemble tiny parachutes.

Dandelions can be found nearly worldwide, and have even been used to study genetic diversity because “dandelions have an extremely wide ecological amplitude, growing almost worldwide from sea-level to alpine biomes, and from the tropics to north-temperate habitats.”

Common Dandelion - Weekly Weeder #17 @ Common Sense Homesteading

Common Dandelion as food for wildlife and humans

Dandelion flowers, leaves and seeds are relished by an assortment of wildlife.  As an early nectar source, the flowers are vital to bees and other pollinators.  The greens are relished by cute and fuzzy bunnies, as well as farm animals such as goats, pigs and horses.

Many of us have heard of eating dandelion greens.  They are best in spring, before the flowers bloom.  As the season progresses, the leaves become more bitter.  You can use them as a salad green, or in cooking as you would spinach.  The book Dandelion Medicine gives directions for dandelion biscuits, dandelion leaf pesto, dandelion green stir-fry and a host of other recipes.  Healing Wise dandelion recipes include soups, dip and beer.  Dandelion “coffee” can be made from the roasted roots.  You can even make “noodles” from the stems.  (Tried this – *not a yummy*.  maybe I did something wrong?)  I have made dandelion wine and cookies, and eaten the greens cooked and raw (and for breakfast this morning).  My goal this season is to try at least three new dandelion recipes, and make another batch of wine.  (Read more about harvesting and using dandelion roots.)

Dandelion roots

Fall dandelion roots, washed and ready to be chopped and dehydrated

Medicinal Uses of Common Dandelion

Gardens Ablaze gives a very nice summary of the many health benefits of the common dandelion:

The humble little Dandelion has remarkable nutritional value, being very high in vitamins A and C, with more beta carotene than carrots and more potassium than broccoli or spinach, not to mention healthy doses of iron and copper for good measure. Medicinally, Dandelions are considered very safe and effective as a general tonic that helps strengthen the liver, gallbladder, pancreas, spleen, stomach, and intestines, improving bile flow and reducing inflammation in cases of hepatitis and cirrhosis. Dandelions also help to dissipate gallstones and are believed to improve kidney function, thereby improving overall health and clearing skin problems.

Dandelion tea is the perfect choice for those with the above problems or those who lead relatively sedentary lifestyles and who experience discomfort associated with this, such as constipation, digestive disorders, indigestion, and general sluggishness and fatigue. Just one cup per day will yield noticeable results within the first few months. Tea may also be of benefit for many of the problems associated with diabetes and low blood sugar.

Externally, the white sap from the stems or roots can be applied directly to ease the pain of sores and bee stings, and is useful in the elimination of warts, acne, and calluses.

To me, the greens always taste somewhat bitter, so I’m hoping that they’ll be more palatable in some of the recipes I’m planning to try. The wine is lovely – more like a very good brandy.  The roots are less bitter, but fibrous.  They are best harvested in fall when they are at their fullest.

Although dandelion is generally considered safe, like any food/herb it may cause reactions in some individuals.  The University of Maryland Medical Center offers a more detailed explanation of medicinal uses of dandelion, along with potential drug interactions.

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Comments

  1. says

    I think those are some really interesting names for dandelion. I actually have some dandelion root in my cupboard. A friend gave it to me. I use it for dandelion root coffee. It’s a really nice alternative…and dandelion is great for liver support. It’s also a natural diuretic!!! Love and hugs from the ocean shores of California, Heather :)

  2. says

    I love your pictures and am very jealous of your dandelion forage. Mmm! We have very rocky soil where I live so digging one dandelion root is an insane amount of work–though once obtained we treasure it:) Thanks for the pingback. I’ll be looking into that Blog Hop business.

  3. says

    My favorite way to serve dandelions is sweet and sour dandelions. I modified it from a cabbage recipe. You just wilt the greens along with some onions in a few tablespoons of cider vinegar and add a sprinkle of sugar. When the vinegar is almost all evaporated, dump the greens into a bowl and add olive oil and a sprinkle of salt. Absolutely delicious, and not bitter at all.

  4. says

    This is so interesting. My son was picking some dandelions the other day and I was telling him that I know they are used for different things, but was not sure what.

  5. David Gibble says

    Growing up in central PA in the late ’50s and early ’60s my brothers and I helped our mom dig up dandelion crowns for her to cook in late Feb and early Mar. They were served with bacon and a white sauce usually with slices of hardboiled eggs from our own flock. The biggest health benefit was to keep three active youngsters out of her hair for hours while she did the bookkeeping for Dad’s building and remodeling business.

  6. says

    I would like to know more about preparing them. They are pretty dirty and once I wash them off, flowers, stems and leaves, the flowers are sticky little wads. Before, I’ve just mixed them with mustard and had a sandwich or something similar.

  7. matina says

    I remember as a child my parents would take us out for a drive, in the farmlands… They had big black garbage backs, with little knifes, for picking dandelions,, We would run around playing of course, while they were hard at work… My mother always prepared them by cleaning, and washing them really well. Then she would boil them for 15 minutes. Drain them, and serve them either hot or cold. with olive oil.. lemon, and salt… She would freeze the rest in zip lock bags, ( without the oil, and stuff.. ) and use the during the winter.. Now they sell them in grocery stores, so we don’t have to go looking for them.. although she still does.. :)

  8. says

    I had some dandelions growing on a small “compose pile” (basically a pile of weeds behind the garage…lol) that had to be over a foot tall. The stems were huge. Never such large ones.

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