Dandelion seed is one of the most popular plants in nature. There are many varieties of dandelions and they all have different characteristics. They include wild dandelions, cultivated ones, and even hybrids between them. Wild dandelions are very common in Europe, North America and Asia. They can be found in almost every climate type. Some species of wild dandelions produce flowers only once or twice a year while others flower throughout the year (or even over winter). Most types of wild dandelions are not edible but some varieties do have culinary uses.
Wild Dandelion Plants
The main difference between cultivated and wild dandelions is their growth habit. Wild dandelions grow underground like other herbs, whereas cultivated ones usually grow above ground with stems and leaves. Many cultivars of wild dandelions are used in food production such as the common garden variety known as ‘wild violet’.
Other cultivars are grown for their medicinal properties such as the common garden variety known as ‘wild thyme’ or the European ‘dandelion’.
In addition to being eaten, wild dandelions are also used medicinally. These plants contain high amounts of thymol which is a natural antiseptic and diuretic. Thymol is often added to cough syrups and other medicines to treat minor ailments such as colds, flu, bronchitis, etc.
Medicinal dandelions are used to make wine, gargles, jellies and teas. The flowers and roots are also edible.
Cultivated Dandelion Plants
Most vegetables that we eat have a long history of cultivation, including dandelions. These plants were first cultivated in China from where they spread all over the world. Some of these vegetables are still grown for food while others have fallen out of favour with changing culinary tastes.
In some parts of the world, dandelions are still eaten as food while in other places they are regarded as a weed.
One type of cultivated dandelion is the ‘milk-dandelion’. This plant looks very similar to the common dandelion but it has a milky sap rather than a bitter one. The dandelion flower is not eaten but the leaves are used like spinach.
The stems, flowers and buds are all edible. The sap can also be used to make dandelion syrup which is a popular desert in some parts of the world.
Dandelion greens can be eaten either cooked or raw. If they are eaten raw, they should be soaked in order to remove the bitter taste. These greens can be eaten boiled, sauteed, steamed or in soups.
They can also be eaten with a dressing made from either oil and vinegar or lemon juice. Dandelion greens can be stir-fried with garlic, potatoes and onions, stewed with tomatoes or even made into dandelion coffee by drying them out and roasting them.
Dandelion greens are a good source of vitamins A and C, iron, calcium, potassium and even a little protein. These leaves also contain inulin which is a carbohydrate that is often used as a dietary supplement for treating diabetes. These leaves are not only used for food; they can also be used to make dandelion coffee.
To make this, the flowers are covered in water and left to steep in a dark cool place. This liquid is strained off and drunk instead of regular coffee. It can even be used as a coffee substitute for those on a diet.
Other parts of the dandelion plant can be eaten too. The young dandelion leaves can be eaten as a salad. The flowers can be eaten on their own as a snack or used to make dandelion wine.
The roots can be eaten but should not be eaten raw and must be cooked first. They can be baked, boiled or even added to stews.
Dandelion plants have many uses apart from food. The flowers are made into dyes that color wool, silk and leather. The fluffy seeds are used as a bath salt and the root is used to make tobacco additives.
The plant can be turned into a herbal remedy for a range of conditions including liver and stomach problems. It can also be used to make dandelion wine.
Dandelions grow freely throughout the world. They are easy to identify thanks to their bright yellow flowers and fuzzy leaves. They only grow in grassy areas and need shallow roots to tap into the soil for water.
The plant can grow as high as 75 centimeters but is shorter in shadier areas. It flowers from spring all the way through to autumn.
These plants like rich, well-drained soil and need lots of water to thrive. They do not grow well in shady areas or areas which are often wet. They are susceptible to a number of pests and diseases.
Dandelion leaves are a good addition to the diet as they are high in vitamins A and C, as well as calcium, iron and potassium. They also contain inulin, a carbohydrate that has been found to help people with diabetes. The leaves and flowers can both be eaten raw but taste better if they are roasted first.
The roots can also be eaten but should be cooked first.
The roots, flowers and leaves can all be eaten either on their own or combined with other ingredients to add flavor. Dandelion can be added to salads, used as a sandwich filler or even substituted for onions in stews and other meals.
Dandelion can be made into wine, although it is very bitter.
Sources & references used in this article:
Post‐dispersal predation of Taraxacum officinale (dandelion) seed by A Honek, Z Martinkova, P Saska – Journal of Ecology, 2005 – Wiley Online Library
Role of post-dispersal seed and seedling predation in establishment of dandelion (Taraxacum agg.) plants by A Honek, Z Martinkova, P Saska, S Koprdova – Agriculture, ecosystems & …, 2009 – Elsevier
What are dandelions and aphids? by DH Janzen – The American Naturalist, 1977 – journals.uchicago.edu
Pre‐dispersal predation of Taraxacum officinale (dandelion) seed by A Honek, Z Martinkova – Journal of Ecology, 2005 – Wiley Online Library
Seed reproduction in the dandelion by HF Roberts – Scientific Agriculture, 1936 – NRC Research Press
Antifungal activity of storage 2S albumins from seeds of the invasive weed dandelion Taraxacum officinale Wigg. by TI Odintsova, EA Rogozhin, IV Sklyar… – Protein and peptide …, 2010 – ingentaconnect.com