Dandelion

Dandelion flower (Taraxacum officinale)
Dandelion is one of the most common plants you can find in the wild and it's really easy to identify. All parts of the plant are edible and it's very nutritious indeed. Spring is the best time of the year to go foraging dandelion.

Table of Contents

Dandelion: Plant profile

Common names

Dandelion, Dent-de-Lion, Lion’s Tooth, Piss-en-Lit, Piss-a-Bed, Cankerwort, Clockflower, Blowflower, Blowball, Caisearbhán

Botanical name

Taraxacum officinale agg.

Plant family

Asteraceae (Daisy), Subfamily: Cichorioideae (Chicory)

Distribution

Dandelion is native to Eurasia and frequently found in the northern temperate zones. It’s extremely common all over the UK and Ireland.

Where to find Dandelion

Dandelions grow pretty much everywhere: this includes grassland, meadow, wasteland, lawns and gardens.

When to find Dandelion

Pick leaves and flowers early to mid-spring and roots in winter, when they are plumpest.

How to identify Dandelion

Dandelion is a small herbaceous plant. A rosette base produces a single flowering stalk with a single yellow flower that eventually turns into a “seed clock”. Leaves are dark green and deeply lobed, with the appearance of pointy teeth. The root of the dandelion is a long thick taproot.

Dandelion lookalikes

Foragers can confuse Dandelion with Sow Thistle, Cats Ear, Hawkbit or Goats Beard, which have similar flowers, though they are all edible.

Dandelion clock seeds (Taraxacum officinale)

All about Dandelion

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 nourishing and beneficial plants a forager can find in the wild.

Medicinal properties of Dandelion

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 packed with nutrients and raw leaves are rich in vitamin A and C plus a considerable amount of calcium, fibre, manganese, iron, potassium and protein.

Culinary uses and recipes with Dandelion

Dandelions are rooted into Mediterranean tradition and are still used in rural areas, where young leaves, sometimes referred as dandelion greens, are added to salads or used as a vegetable for stir-fries and pie fillings such as hortopita. Nowadays, some people throw them into smoothies for a nutrition boost.

Flower petals are edible as well and can be added to salads, pancakes, omelettes and risottos. Syrup made of the flowers is dubbed “dandelion honey” and tastes divine.

Roots are not as popular as they used to be a few decades ago, when they were broadly used to make a caffeine-free coffee substitute after roasting and grinding the plump roots.

Dandelion flower (Taraxacum officinale)

Safe foraging of Dandelion

This plant is a member of the same family as ragwort and daisies, therefore it may potentially cause allergies to certain individuals. Such cases are extremely rare and there are few documented cases of the plant’s toxicity in humans.

There are also very few reports that some people have suffered dermatitis as a result of touching the plant, caused by the latex in the leaves and stems.

Ecological importance of Dandelion

Dandelion prroduces an important source of nectar and pollen for bees and other pollinating insects when few other plants are in flower. It provides food for grazing mammals too.

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Alvaro Docio

Alvaro Docio

I am the person behind British Local Food. As a forager and wild food educator, my aim is to inspire you to go outdoors, familiarise with your local plants and make the best of their culinary and medicinal properties, in the hope you'd pass on any knowledge gained down to the next generation.

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