Botanical name: Taraxacum officinale agg.
Common name: Dandelion, dent-de-lion, lion’s tooth, piss-en-lit, piss-a-bed
Family: Asteraceae (Daisy)
Subfamily: Cichorioideae (Chicory)
Worldwide distribution: Native to Eurasia and found in the northern temperate zones.
Local distribution: Extremely common all over the UK and Ireland.
Habitat: Grassland, meadow, wasteland, lawns and gardens.
Foraging season: Leaves and flowers in early and mid-spring and roots in winter.
There is hardly any field where those bright yellow flowers cannot thrive in spring. Dandelions find their way to grow in the smallest of the crevices, popping up between pavements and growing in your lawn.
Familiarity breeds contempt and so dandelions have been reduced to nothing more than a weed that we are determined to eliminate. Nonetheless, it’s one of the most nutritious and beneficial plants a forager can find.
Dandelion has long been collected for its medicinal properties and it’s considered a valuable diuretic, as the common name of ‘piss-a-bed’ testifies to this reputation. The plant is quite nutritious and a few raw leaves are rich in vitamin A and C plus a considerable amount of calcium, fibre, manganese, iron, potassium and protein.
Leaves, flowers and roots are edible. Add young leaves to salads or cook like spinach. Flower petals are a good addition to salads, pancakes, omelettes and risottos.
A caffeine-free coffee substitute can be made by roasting and grinding the plump roots.