“If dandelions were hard to grow, they would be most welcome on any lawn.”
Andrew V. Mason
Common Name: Dandelion
Botanical Name: Taraxacum officinale
Parts Used: Whole plant, leaves, flowers, roots
Dandelions are the tenacious survivors of the herb world – rip them out of your garden or sidewalk and you’ll often find three-fold more growing in their place shortly after! While dandelions may be the bane of home gardeners everywhere, it’s said that finding this weedy herb is a message that your physical wellbeing needs some attention. Have you noticed any dandelions popping up in your garden of lawn lately?
How to Spot Dandelions
Dandelion, or Taraxacum officinale, is a tap-rooted biennial or perennial herbaceous plant, The common name, dandelion, is taken from the French word “dent de lion” meaning lion’s tooth, referring to the coarsely-toothed, smooth-surfaced, lance-shaped leaves. The name also allures to the plant’s connection to the astrological sign Leo, due to the lion being the animal symbol of the sun and the daily opening and closing of the disc-like flowers with the sun’s passing.
2–3.5 cm, sunny yellow, feathery flowers are made up of hundreds of individual flower heads (common to the Asteraceae plant family), with the composite flower head forming singularly on hollow, leafless stalks that grow out of a basal rosette of 5-25cm long leaves attached to the twisted, brittle tap root. The tap root, as well as all parts of the plant, exude a milky substance when broken, and when pulled from the ground can shatter and regrow from any remnants of root left behind.
Flowers open during the daytime, closing again at night, and mature into spherical seed heads called “clocks” that contain many single-seeded fruits called achenes. These are the clocks we have all placed wishes upon while blowing them out into the universe; each achene has the potential to be carried almost 10 kilometres by the wind ensuring widespread, ongoing propagation.
Dandelions In The Garden
This is possibly the easier herb to grow – if your neighbourhood is anything like mine then this weed is already abundant in front yards, lawns and cracks in the sidewalk! The plant is virtually indestructible thanks to it’s regenerating tap roots and
You can certainly plant some dandelion in a large plant pot or tub if you’re worried about them taking over your garden, though the best place for them is the patch of dirt where nothing else seems to grow. It’s well known that dandelion can thrive in the poorest of soil and through it’s presence dandelion improves soil quality by drawing up nutrients and moisture from deep soil levels over several generations of their presence.
Purchase organic dandelion seeds for your first planting, after this point you can keep all fruiting flower heads (clocks) for replanting. Never collect clocks from public lands or from areas you know are sprayed with pesticides, as dandelions (and all common weeds) are regularly sprayed with noxious chemicals due to their persistent nature. Reputable seed sellers of organic dandelion seeds in Australia include All Rare Herbs and Eden Seeds.
In an area of the garden that receives full sun, plant seeds 2-5 cm apart on the soil surface and sprinkle a little potting or seed starting mix over the top until the seeds are barely covers. After two weeks, once the first leaves appear, mulch lightly around plants and fertilise with a seaweed or fish meal based fertiliser every two weeks.
Dandelions can be harvested at any time of the year, with the leaves being the most tender and mild tasting before the plant has flowered, and the thickest roots occurring in Autumn as the plant begins to store energy for the winter months. Flowers and seed heads can be collected at any time.
Dandelions make an excellent, nutritive food for chickens, rabbits and guinea pigs, and are a great booster for worm farms and compost heaps due to their nitrogen content.
Dandelions In The Kitchen
Dandelion leaves are a fantastic addition to salads, it is best to pick the leaves before flowering in spring as they will be tender, with a more mildly bitter flavor. After flowering the leaves become tougher and more richly bitter, becoming more suitable for making herbal infusions, pesto or infusing in olive oil or vinegar. The bitter taste of dandelion leaves is also a digestive agent, helping to stimulate appetite as well as the production of gastric, bile and pancreatic secretions that help with digestion and absorption.
Roasted and brewed dandelion root is a popular caffeine-free coffee substitute, and is rich in blood glucose-stabilising and prebiotic inulin, as well as having a potent effect on the digestive and hepatic system. Dandelion heads are also edible, with the individual flower heads making a delightful addition to summer salads, or can be used to make jams, jellies or syrups due to their slightly sweet and honeyed flavour.
- Dandelion Leaf Infusion:
Place 6-8 freshly picked, whole or torn dandelion leaves in a tea cup or mug, pour over boiling water, and let stand for 5-10 minutes before consuming.
- Dandelion Root Coffee Recipe by Eat Weeds
- Dandelion-Violet Lemonade by Blissville Living
- How to Make Dandelion Jelly by Teaspoon of Spice
- Dandelion Pesto with Pistachios by The Clean Dish
- Easy Dandelion Honey Mead by Southern Forager
- Dandelion Greens with Mustard Vinaigrette by In Sock Monkey Slippers
- Winter Squash Salad with Quinoa and Dandelion Greens by Climbing Grier Mountain
- Golden Dandelion Tempura Blooms by Bron Marshall
- Dandelion Vinegar by My Pantry Shelf (try with ACV for added medicinal benefits)
Dandelion Medicinal Uses
The botanical name for dandelion, Taraxacum officinale, is derived from the Greek words, “taraxos” meaning “disorder”, and “akos”, meaning remedy, with different parts of the dandelion plant acting as liver tonic and detoxification aid, digestive stimulant, diuretic and antioxidant.
Conditions that may benefit from dandelion include liver and gallbladder issues, poor appetite or digestion, high blood pressure of cholesterol, sluggish liver, inflammatory skin complaints such as acne and ecezma, fluid retention and urinary problems. Topically, the milky ‘sap’ of dandelion, or salves, infused oils and poultices using the leaves or flowers may be useful for calluses, rough, dry or inflamed skin, warts or corns, muscle tension or arthritic pains.
Medicinal dispensing methods for home include infusion, decoction, tincture, capsules or medicinal wine. Further, your Naturopathic or Western Herbal Medicine practitioner may prescribe a high-strength extract, tablet or encapsulation of dandelion root or leaf depending on your individualised health needs.
Homemade Fresh Dandelion Root Tincture: Collect fresh dandelion root from pesticide-free, homegrown or wild-crafted dandelion plants. Finely chop washed, cleaned and dried roots and weigh, before placing into a sterile jar. Alternatively you can pulse the woody roots in a food processor. For each part of dandelion root, pour 2 parts Vodka to the mason jar and seal jar tightly with lid. Place in a cool, dark place and shake the jar once or twice daily for two weeks. After two weeks has elapsed, uncap jar and strain contents through a few layers of cheesecloth of muslin to remove root pieces. Press the root pieces in the cloth with your hands to remove all liquid. Dispose of leftover root and bottle and seal your tincture. Label with the plant name, date and dosage instructions (Adults: 10-15 ml/day) and store in a cool, dark place. Use within six months.
Homemade Dried Dandelion Root Tincture: Weigh dried, finely ground dandelion root ‘coffee’ and place into a sterile jar. For each part dried root, add 3 parts vodka and 2 parts filtered water to the jar and then seal tightly with a sterilised lid. Place in a cool, dark place and shake the jar once or twice daily for two weeks. After two weeks has elapsed, uncap jar and strain contents through a few layers of cheesecloth of muslin to remove root pieces. Press the root pieces in the cloth with your hands to remove all liquid. Dispose of leftover root and bottle and seal your tincture. Label with the plant name, date and dosage instructions (Adults: 10-15ml/day) and store in a cool, dark place. Use within six months.
Infused Dandelion Massage Oil: Collect fresh dandelion flowers from pesticide-free, homegrown or wild-crafted plants. Fill a small sterilised jar with fresh dandelion flowers and pour organic sweet almond or olive oil over the flowers and fill the jar almost to the top. Seal the jar tightly and place the jar on a sunny windowsill for 2 weeks. After this period strain the infused oil through a few layers of cheesecloth and and transfer the oil to a new sterilised jar. Store it in a cool dark place and use within a few months. Alternatively, refrigerate and use within 12 months.
How to Make Dandelion Wine by Proverbs 31 Woman
Dandelion Salve by Little Seed Farm
Whipped Dandelion & Coconut Oil Moisturiser by The Nerdy Farm Wife