Dandelion Edible Garden Weed
SOME people think of it as a weed. When a plant that we identify as being a weed is found growing in our lawn or garden, out comes the trowel and hoe (or for the ruthless and impatient gardeners, weedkillers such as Round Up) and we may spend the entire growing season keeping these opportunistic and resilient plants at bay, in order to have neat and tidy garden beds and uniform lawns.
And it’s too bad, really, as many of the common garden weeds are not only
edible and nutritious, but can be a great homegrown (and free) addition to our meals. Infact, if you’ve spent countless of hours battling your dandelions, you might find a certain satisfaction in abandoning your hoes and sprays and simply eat the ‘‘enemy.”
Part of the resistance to eating plants that we believe to be weeds, is that we are conditioned to only consider the items we buy in the market as food, and not things that the rest of the neighbourhood sees as unwelcome invaders in lawns and gardens. And unless we’ve been exposed to eating plants that are seen as common garden weeds, we see them as garden pests.
The quintessential garden and lawn weed, dandelions have a bad reputation among those who want grass that looks as uniform as a golf course, but every part of this common edible weed is tasty both raw and cooked, from the root to the blossoms. Dandelion leaves can be harvested at any point in the growing season, and while the smaller leaves are considered to be far less bitter and more palatable raw, the bigger leaves can be eaten as well, especially as an addition to a green salad, stir fried, or added to soup, or steamed, which can make them less bitter. The flowers are sweet and crunchy, and can be eaten raw or breaded and fried, or even used to make dandelion wine. The root of the dandelion can be dried and roasted and used as coffee substitute or added to any recipe that calls for root vegetables.
For herbalogists, though, dandelion is a powerful remedy. Dandelion is a prodigious multiplier, but the real reason why it has become so wide spread is more to do with its use as medicine and source of nutrients. Contrary to popular belief, dandelion is a beneficial plant to have. It is a great companion plant for gardening because it’s long taproot brings up nutrients to the shallow-root plants in the garden adding minerals and nitrogen to the soil. Dandelions attract pollinating insects which helps fruits to ripen.
Taraxacum is a large genius of flowering plants in the family Asteraceae and consists of species commonly known as Dandelion. They are native to Eurasia and North America, and two species T. Officinale and T. erythrospermum, are found as common place wild flowers on all continents and have been gathered for food since prehistory. A perennial plant, its leaves will grow back if the taproot is left intact. Like other members of the Asteraceae family, they have small flowers collected together into a composite flower head. Each single flower in a head is called a floret. Many Taraxacum species produce seeds asexually by apomixes, where the seeds are produced without pollination, resulting in offsprings that are genetically identical to the parent plant.
Distinguishing features: The dandelion is a readily identifiable, hardy perennial plant. Perennial meaning it reproduces for 2 or more years without re-planting. It has a rosette base with flat leaves producing several flowering stems each bright yellow flower rising above on a single stalk. As the flower matures it turns into the ‘dandelion clock’ that spreads the dandelion spores on the wind to be germinated wherever they land.
Leaves, Dandelions have a toothy, deeply notched, basal leaves that are hairless. They are 5 to 25 cm or longer and they form a rosette above the central tap root.
Height: Depending on several conditions, dandelions can grow as high as 25-30 cm.
Habitat: Dandelion are the most common broadleaf weed in most lawns. It is found in virtually every kind of habitat, from opening in woods, in pastures, waste ground, sand, rocks even cracks in concrete. From rocky hillsides to fertile gardens. From a thick, long, taproot dark brown outside, white and milky white inside, grow long jaggedly toothed leaves, shiny, dark to light green and growing in the shape of a rosette close to the ground. A purplish flower-stalks that rise straight from the center, it is leafless, smooth, hollow and bears a single bright golden yellow, furry looking flower which blooms almost anytime of the year. When mature the seed in the flowers heads are round and fuzzy, carried by the wind to be germinated wherever they land.
Dandelion Cultivation and Growing Methods
Dandelion is very easily grown plant, it succeeds in most soils. It becomes quite large in cultivation, the leaves reaching a foot or more in length. Dandelion is often cultivated as an edible crop and as a medicinal herb plant.
This plant is one of the hardiest around. It can grow most everywhere, regardless of soil conditions, but does best in rich soil with sufficient moisture.
This plant is very strong and can do well in hot climate and cold winters, but prefers full sun. it can also do well in partial shade.
Plant dandelion seeds in well-drained, fertile soil. Plant seeds directly in garden ¼ inch deep in the soil in single rows about 8 inches.
Flowering/Seeding Time: Dandelion reaches maturity approximately 85 to 95 days after planting.
Harvesting: You can harvest the greens throughout the growing season. Roots can be harvested after the second year of growth. Pull the entire root from the ground and avoid breakage.
Drying Methods/Yield: Dry roots in oven or in the sun. leaves can be eaten raw, or blanched by tying them up and banding the leaves. This will cause the inner leaves to turn white and sweet. The outer leaves are edible but as the season progresses, become bitter.
Plant yield: Large yield, throughout growing season.
Preservation/Package Methods: Can be dried and stored as any herb or spice in an air-tight container or blanched and frozen.
Herbal Properties And Uses
Highly nutritious and known to treat a variety of ailments. From heart problems to acne, liver diseases to eye conditions, most people are unaware that this weed has higher amount of potassium than bananas and more Vitamin A than carrots. Dandelions are a rich source of vitamins, minerals and it even has antioxidants. For example, one cup of raw dandelion greens contains 112 per cent of your daily required intake of Vitamin A and 535 per cent of K.
The leaves and roots are used as tonic for overly phlegmatic or lethargic conditions, as it reduces congestion in the body. It is used to stimulate digestion and vitality. Helpful for pre-menstrual and menopausal tension. Dandelion greens also have been used as a diuretic, an agent that promotes the loss of water from the body through urination. Their diuretic effect can make dandelion greens helpful in lowering blood pressure and relieving premenstrual fluid retention.
Dandelion roots contain inulin and levulin, starchlike substances that may help balance blood sugar, as well as a bitter substance (taraxacin) that stimulates digestion. The very presence of bitter taste in the mouth promotes the flow of bile from the liver and gall bladder, as well as hydrochloric acid from the stomach. Bitters have been used for centuries in many cultures before meals, as a digestive stimulant. Do you avoid bitter-tasting food? Many people do, but this may not reflect a balanced apetite. According to Asian philosophies, the diet should contain foods that are sweet, salty, sour and bitter. The few bitter tastes Westerners embrace are coffee, beer and wine, which may have something to do with the higher incidence of digestive diseases in Western cultures compared with Asian cultures. Dandelion leaves are also rich in minerals, vitamins particularly calcium and Vitamins A, C, K and B2 (riboflavin). Besides the stimulating bitter substances, dandelion roots also contain choline, another liver stimulant. Dandelion roots make wonderful colon cleansing and detoxifying medications because anytime digestion is improved, the absorption of nutrients and the removal of wastes from the body improves as well. Many people could use a little extra support for the liver.