Dandelions are known for their dazzling yellow blossoms that give way to a globe-shaped puff ball, sending seeds floating away on the breeze. Others view this plant as a persistent weed that can invade even a well-kept lawn.
This plant has smooth, jagged-edged leaves, and hollow, milky, stems that yield a single flower. Also known as ‘swine’s snout,’ Dandelion’s green sepals encircle its closed bud producing a silhouette that resembles a pig’s nose.
Several flowers resemble Dandelions. Check the leaves and flower stems. If the leaves are hairy or the flower stems are branched -- or the root structure does not match the description of Dandelion root – you have found a look-a-like and not an actual Dandelion plant.
A nutritious food and a prized tonic, Dandelions are edible from the root, to the leaves and the blossoms. Gather Dandelion from an area KNOWN to be free of pesticides & toxic chemical contamination (avoid roadways).
The shape of the leaves inspired the name of this vegetable. ‘Dent du lion’ is a French phrase that means ‘tooth of the lion’ and refers to the tooth-shaped leaves.
Leaves should be harvested in the early spring before the plant blooms because that is where the energy of the plant is concentrated in the spring – new growth. These can be used for salads, tea, soups and tonics. Dandelion leaves are great eaten fresh and can be dried for later use.
To clean them place the leaves in a basin of water and agitate gently. Allow the leaves to soak while the dirt settles to bottom. Remove gently so as not to stir up the dirt in the bottom of the basin. Run the soaked leaves under running water. Place in a colander to drain.
Flowers should be harvested after the dew has dried, but before heat of the day – in late morning. The flowers won’t open on a cloudy day. As soon as rain threatens, the heads will close. The blooms also close at night (or late afternoon) and open again when the plant senses the sun’s rays.
To harvest the flowers, pull on the sepals (green leaves at base of bloom) and the blossoms will pop off the stem, saving you the trouble of removing stems later. Clean them just as you would the leaves.
Dandelion roots can be eaten fresh or dried. The best quality roots grow in well-cultivated soil. They form a slim, carrot-like tap that is twisted and brittle, milky white in color and seated deep in the soil. When unearthed, the plant will reproduce from broken remnants of root left in the ground.
Harvest roots in mid-summer as this is the part of the year when they are thought the least bitter. These are best from free, moist soil located in shady areas. Frosty conditions will lessen the activity of the roots, so it is not good to gather them during cold weather. However, it is not a problem to harvest during wet weather. Use a long fork or trowel and lift steadily and carefully. Try not to break or cut the roots as they will lose their valuable juice by bleeding.
Dandelion roots should be dried whole or cut 3 to 6 inches long if too large. These roots generally take about two weeks to dry. They will shrivel to ½ inch or less in diameter and appear dark brown with lengthwise, spiraling wrinkles. Fully dried Dandelion roots will be hard enough to snap revealing their white interior. Store the dehydrated roots in a dry place to avoid mold and in a tightly covered container to protect them from pests. They will keep for one season.
Dandelion nectar attracts butterflies, hoverflies and bees. Finches also enjoy the seeds of this plant.
Learn now to identify safe sources of Dandelion as it is a nourishing food source and a helpful remedy in time of need.