Dandelion grows abundantly in many parks and gardens. This easily recognisable weed was once a cure-all of herbal medicine and is still popular in food and drink.
Bright yellow composite flowers crown an erect stem (up to 1-30 cm) emerging from a rosette of large jagged, green leaves. Older plants have a long tapering white root and younger plants have thinner roots and rhizomes.
Perennial. Distributed in temperate zones.
Habitat and distribution
Native to many temperate parts of the world, they are found growing in gardens, parks, lawns, roadsides, waysides, meadows, fields, orchards and woodlands.
Parts used for food
Roots, leaves, buds and flowers.
Early spring to late autumn.
Food uses of dandelion
Dandelion-and-burdock is a popular fizzy drink made in the north of England. The root has also traditionally been used to make a coffee substitute.
The leaves of the plant are considered to be very nutritious and can be eaten as a salad or fresh vegetable. In Asian cooking, for example, the leaves are used like lettuce, boiled, made into soup or fried.
The flower-buds can be added to omelettes and fritters, the flowers baked into cakes, and even the pollen sprinkled on food for decoration and colouring. Blossoms make a delicious country wine and beer is brewed from the whole plant before it flowers.
Nutritional profile of dandelion
The greens contain vitamins A, C, E, K, B6, beta carotene, folate, thiamine, riboflavin, calcium, iron, potassium and manganese.
- Dandelion root coffee
- Braised dandelion greens with maple syrup
- A simple dandelion salad
- Dandelion flower vinegar
- Hairy bittercress, dandelion and papaya salad
- Eva’s warm dandelion salad
- Roasted cherry tomatoes with dandelion dressing
Herbal medicine uses of dandelion
The plant has been used as herbal medicine to treat wide-ranging conditions, including stomach and liver complaints, diabetes, heart problems, anaemia, respiratory ailments, consumption (tuberculosis), toothache, broken bones and sprains, sore eyes, cuts and nervousness.
The plant provides a rich source of nectar and pollen for bees and other pollinating insects from early spring to late autumn.
As a member of the same plant family as ragwort and daisies, dandelion may potentially cause allergies. However, there are few documented cases of the plant’s toxicity in humans.
- Foraging safety guidelines
- Edible and medicinal wild plants of Britain and Ireland
- Foraging through the year
- Nasreddin and the tale of the dandelion
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Hatfield, G. (2008) Hatfield’s herbal: the secret history of British plants. London: Penguin.
Mills, S. Y. & Bone, K. (eds.) (2005) The essential guide to herbal safety. St. Louis: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone.
Tanaka, Y. & Nguyen, V. K. (2007) Edible wild plants of Vietnam: the bountiful garden. Bangkok: Orchid Press.
Thayer, S. (2006) The forager’s harvest: a guide to identifying, harvesting, and preparing edible wild plants. Ogema: Forager’s Harvest.
Jackson, P. (2013) Ireland’s generous nature: the past and present uses of wild plants in Ireland. St. Louis: Missouri Botanical Garden Press.