Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)

Yellow and white Dandelion flowersMany are surprised to find that the Dandelion plant is edible.  The Dandelion grows from unbranched taproots and produces more than 10 stems on each plant.  The stems, which are sparsely covered with short hairs, are slightly purplish and produce flowerheads that are typically taller than the foliage.  Dandelion leaves have a jagged edge, grow close to the ground, and are seldom more than 20 centimeters (8 inches) long. The flowers are bright yellow.

There are several dandelion species.

Dandelion flower towers above the green foliageWhere to Find: Dandelions grow in open, sunny locations throughout the Northern Hemisphere, in southern Africa, Australia, and many other parts of the world.

Edible Parts: All parts are edible (including the flowers). Eat the leaves (called dandelion greens) raw or cooked. They taste a bit like mustard greens. Boil the roots as a vegetable. Roots roasted and ground are a good coffee substitute.  For use in salads, greens should be harvested from new plants while still small and tender, before the first flower emerges. Larger greens tend to be tougher and more bitter, and are better suited for cooking.

Dandelions have long been used as a liver tonic and diuretic. In addition, the roots contain inulin and levulin, starchlike substances that may help balance blood sugar, as well as bitter taraxacin, which stimulates digestion. Dandelions are high in vitamins A and C, calcium, potassium, and have more iron than spinach.

Other Uses: Use the white juice in the flower stems as glue and as a mosquito repellent.  In some places the milk is used to treat warts.



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