Dandelion – characteristics, cultivation and use

yellow flowers of dandelion
yellow flowers of dandelion

With its bright yellow blossom, the beautiful dandelion and its distinctive toothed leaves is one of the most memorable plants in Central Europe. This herb is a great addition to your menu. From the root to the flower all parts of the plant are usable. Dandelion has long been a recognized herb and helps against liver and gall bladder problems.

Profile of dandelion:

Scientific name: Taraxacum officinale

Plant family: daisy family, aster family (Asteraceae)

Other names: lion’s-tooth

Sowing time / Planting time: March – May

Flowering period: April – July

Harvest time: April – September

Useful plant parts: leaves, flowers, buds, seeds,

Location: sunny to partially shaded

Soil quality: nutrient-rich and loose soils

These information are for temperate climate!

Use as a medicinal herb: biliary disorders, liver complaints, urinary complaints, kidney problems, eczema, rheumatism

Use as aromatic herb: as vegetables, in salads, substitute coffee, jellies

Plant characteristics and classification of dandelion

Origin and occurrence of dandelion

The dandelion is today a worldwide spread plant, which had its origin in Central Asia. Presumably, the herb, which today mainly occurs on nutrient-rich meadows, has spread from there mainly to Europe. It was originally imported to America as food crop. It can now also be found throughout North America, southern Africa, South America, New Zealand, Australia and India

In addition to nutrient-rich meadows, the dandelion can also be found on or near the edge of agricultural areas, livestock pastures, fallow land or parks. The plants occur in the lowlands as well as in the high mountains up to 2,500 m height (8,200 feet).

Plant order of the common dandelion

The common dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) is a member of the daisy family (Asteraceae). This plant family includes many other well-known crops and herbs such as wormwood, calendula or chamomile. In the closer relationship the dandelion belongs to the Cichoriengewächsen (Cichorieae).

The genus of dandelion family (Taraxacum) is handled differently in botanical science. There are several sources that list more than 1,000 different species. Other sources, on the other hand, group the dandelion into sections, usually referred to by region or by occurrence.

Characteristics and look of dandelion

Plant

Dandelion is a perennial, herbaceous plant that grows between 10 and 30 cm (4 and 12 in) high. It has a dark brown taproot up to 1 meter long, which contains like all other plant parts a milky juice. The milk juice protects the plant from being eaten by animals and at the same time protects against infections. Dandelion is not poisonous. However, the milk can dye skin and cloth brownish-yellow. The stems are round, hollow, unbranched and leafless.

Leaves

The basal green leaves of the dandelion are in a dense rosette. They are up to 25 m (10 in) long and are heavily toothed in a striking way.

Flowering

The flowers are arranged in typical flower baskets and usually bloom between early April to early July. Often a second flowering time can be observed in late summer. The inflorescence of dandelion is otherwise referred to as a pseudanthium, meaning that several flowers give the appearance as if only a single flower is present. In the case of the dandelion, between 200 and 300 single yellow ligulate flowers form such a pseudanthium.

Ripeness

After a few weeks, the flowers transform into capsule-shaped brown seeds with stems and fine-haired little umbrellas (also called pappus): the dandelion becomes the popular “blowball“. About 5,000 seeds are produced per plant. Due to the wind, the fruits are carried away and spread over long distances. Wherever the seeds settle, young plants emerge, preferably on roadsides and on meadows rich in nitrogen.

dandelion on a meadow
dandelion on a meadow

Dandelion – cultivation and care

Location

Dandelion is not picky about its location. However, it grows best in sunny to partially shaded places.

Soil

Ideal for dandelion are nutrient-rich clay and loamy soils, although the plant spreads well in every lawn and grows well there.

Sowing

The best time to sow dandelion are the months of March to the end of May, whereby it can also be sown in late summer from September to early October. The sowing in the spring should happen in the greenhouse or on the window sill, so that the plantlets can be prick out from the beginning of June in the garden bed or in a large pot. If seeded in late summer, the seeds can be sprinkled directly in the field.

As it needs light to germ, the seeds should only be pressed slightly into the ground. But covering with soil should be mandatory, do not just lay the seeds on the ground. If planting in the garden bed, a seed spacing of at least 30 x 30 cm (12 x 12 in) is recommended. When used properly, the seedlings usually appear after two to three weeks.

Sowing on the balcony is basically possible. However, deep pots should be chosen because the plant develops extensive taproots.

Fertilization

If dandelion grows in a nutrient-rich or pre-fertilized soil, no further fertilization is necessary for the first year of planting. In the second year, addind some compost is recommended and usually completely sufficient. For balcony or potted plants, fertilizer pellets or even light organic herbal fertilizers can be used. If a liquid fertilizer is used, it should always be sufficiently diluted. If it grows in pots, it should be fertilized every six weeks (except using long-term pellets).

Watering

It should be taken care that the soil is always slightly moistened. Dandelion is often even a pointer plant for wet and compacted soils. The plant tolerates even waterlogging. Short-term dry out is occasionally tolerated. On particularly hot days it may therefore be necessary to water the plants up to twice a day (preferably in the morning and in the evening).

If dandelion is already growing in your garden, no special care is required.

Harvesting

You can harvest the delicate leaves before flowering continuously and use them fresh, later dandelion becomes increasingly bitter. When collecting, be careful to avoid freshly fertilized meadows! Plants, which grow near busy roads, should not be eaten because of pollution. Likewise, the dandelion flowers are edible.

The picked leaves and flowers should preferably dry. The leaves are bound together in bundles and hung upside down in a shady and airy place. If this is not possible, the leaves can also be dried in a dehydrator at temperatures between 30 and 40 ° C.

The flowers are similar. Since they are bad to hang (the stalks with the milk juice should be removed), it is better to spread them out and dry in the air or in the dehydrator. This should go quickly, so that the flowers no longer have the opportunity to close.

Wintering

Dandelion is hardy and needs no separate treatment. The near-surface leaves die, leaving the tap root in the ground and forming new shoots the following year.

Dandelion and its use

The use is very diverse, from salad, to tea and as a coffee substitute. The dandelion has a dehydrating and slightly laxative effect. So it is used for the purification of the kidneys, especially for a tendency to the formation of kidney stones. For dysentery and gall bladder dandelion is used, and it can also help with joint pain and signs of wear on joints and intervertebral discs.

Dandelions in the kitchen

The aromatic young dandelion leaves can be freshly processed as dandelion salad or smoothies, cooked to herb sauces or soups. Its leaves are also steamed very tasty, in the style of spinach, or as an ingredient for risotto or quiche. For tea older leaves are preferred.

The flowers are edible. They are processed as jelly, liqueur or liquor. The buds can salt and lay like capers. The dandelion roots are dug out in spring or autumn, then dried and kept airtight. It can be used as a vegetable and for tea or processed into root extract. For a long time, the root of the plant was also considered a coffee substitute.

Dandelion leaves are a good deal for leafy lettuce as well as for wild herb salads. Especially delicious are the leaves in conjunction with roasted walnuts, pine nuts or hazelnuts. With balsamic vinegar and with other aromatic herbs such as basil, lemon balm or thyme interesting flavors can be created.

Dandelion salad

  • Pick dandelion leaves as delicate as possible in the garden or on non-fertilized meadows, away from busy roads.
  • Cut an onion into fine cubes and sprinkle salt over it. Let the onions with the salt steep for a while, because then the onion is milder. You can also finely cut and add a garlic clove.
  • Meanwhile, you can take care of the leaves. First wash thoroughly to remove sand and earth. Then put it in lukewarm water for a while, so it loses a bit of its bitterness. You can do this a second time.
  • Then it’s time for the sauce: add some vinegar, sour cream (or cream) and about two teaspoons of sugar. That’s a lot of sugar for a salad dressing, but the dandelion is so bitter that a sweet sauce does it very well. Instead of sugar you can of course also take honey, or you face the bitterness.
  • Now it’s time for the fine work. Cut the leaves into fine pieces.
  • Fold the leaves in the sauce.
  • Finally, arrange the dandelion salad on plates and serve

Preparation of a dandelion tea

The dandelion tea is made from fresh or dried leaves, flowers and / or roots. If you want to use the root, dry it and then cut it to size or grind it into powder. You can make the tea cold or boil it:

Time needed: 8 minutes.

This is how to prepare a dandelion tea by yourself.

  1. put 1 to 2 teaspoons of fresh or dried dandelion leaves, flowers or roots in a tea strainer in a cup

  2. dash with hot boiling water

  3. let brew for 5-10 minutes

The healing powers of tea affect four areas:

The high potassium content has a diuretic effect and is therefore good for your bladder.

The dandelion is hematopoietic and purifies the blood. It is often used for menstrual cramps.

The plant increases gastric juice secretion, which boosts your metabolism and has an antispasmodic effect.

Also your skin can be freed of pimples, eczema, corns and warts.

For a dehydrating and blood-purifying drinking cure, you should drink two to three cups of dandelion tea a day for four to five weeks.

The flowers brighten the mind and clarifies the consciousness and teaches contentment and self-esteem.

Preparation of a dandelion syrup

For this syrup, you will need three handfuls of dandelion flowers, the juice and peel of an organic lemon, one kilogram (35 oz) of sugar and one liter (33 fl oz) of water.

  • Pluck only the yellow flowers for the syrup
  • Wash and dry the lemon, rub the peel and squeeze out the juice.
  • Put all ingredients together with the sugar and the water in a saucepan and stir the mixture at low temperature until the dandelion syrup has the desired consistency
  • Filter the mixture and place in screw jars

Dandelion syrup is ideal for refining desserts, cereals and teas.

Preparation of a dandelion juice

From fresh dandelion leaves, together with other wild herbs, you can squeeze a juice – for example in a blender. Or you cut the freshly collected leaves small and press out the juice with a garlic press. This juice is often used as a spring cure. Add one tablespoon of juice to a glass of water three times a day and drink it before the meal.

Dandelion juice can also be bought in many health food shops or in the pharmacy.

Another use for dandelion is the production of a wild herb pesto. Fresh leaves are crushed with pine nuts or walnuts and organic-oil in a mortar and finally mixed with Pecorino cheese and a little salt.

Dandelion as a medicinal herb

Dandelion components are not only useful in the kitchen, but also as a remedy for a variety of ailments. The plant was already a known and commonly used medicinal herb in ancient times.

In older herbal books, dandelion was mainly used to plug the abdominal flow or to relieve the symptoms of red dysentery. Externally, the plant was used on painful breasts, manhood and legs as well as blurred vision.

Even today, the dandelion is used in the natural medical for numerous complaints. From a medical point of view, the bitter substances contained in herbs and roots, which are used primarily for complaints in the stomach area as well as for liver and gall bladder problems, are of particular importance.

dandelion - blowball
dandelion – blowball

Dandelion can be used for these ailments and diseases

  • allergies
  • arteriosclerosis
  • beauty aids
  • bronchitis
  • constipation
  • corn
  • cough
  • chronic joint diseases
  • chronic skin disorders
  • dropsy
  • eczema
  • fever
  • gallen weakness
  • gallstones
  • gout
  • headache
  • hemorrhoids
  • kidney stones
  • liver weakness
  • loss of appetite
  • menopausal symptoms
  • pimples
  • promoting menstrual
  • rheumatism
  • spring fever
  • stomach weakness
  • warts

Medicinal properties

  • appetizing
  • antispasmodic
  • anti-inflammatory
  • blood purifier
  • diuretic
  • draining
  • gastric juice stimulating
  • hematopoietic
  • promotion of bile flow (choleretic)
  • stimulates metabolism
  • toning

An infusion or decoction of dandelion leaves is traditionally used against spring tiredness and mild headaches. Its stimulating effect on the digestive organs and the entire metabolic process makes the tea also a fantastic fasting companion.

The medicinal herb is usually used in the form of a dandelion tea, occasionally in the form of tinctures, syrup and pressed juices. For the preparation of these just scroll up a bit to the sections „Preparation of …“

In homeopathic applications, dandelion is mainly used for upper abdominal discomfort, joint and muscle discomfort, gastritis and rheumatism.

Note

People who have proven to have contact allergy with the milk juice should refrain from pressing juices and tinctures. You may also experience stomach problems. This usually happens when the tea is drawn too long or when used over a very long period of time.

Disclaimer:

Ask your doctor or pharmacist. Visiting this page can not replace the visit to the doctor. For serious or unclear complaints, consult your doctor.

Buy dandelion – What is there to pay attention to?

In addition to fresh dandelion leaves, fresh dandelion plants are available in some garden centers and markets. Since it can be confused with the dandelion of the same name, the botanical name Taraxacum officinale should be respected.

Some manufacturers of seeds now also offer seeds. Of these, also available are varieties that have been cultivated directly for use in the kitchen and contain a smaller amount of bitter substances.

As you can find the plant almost everywhere. By far, the easiest way to get dandelion seeds is to pick some seeds of the blowball after fruit ripening. It is cheap and worth a try.

For medical applications, dried dandelion leaves may be purchased, including: suitable for dandelion tea, infusions or wraps. The packaging should be airtight and aroma-tight to obtain the highest possible quality. Some suppliers also stock products that include both the dried leaves and roots of the dandelion. The prices are about 5 and 8 EUR / $ for 500 grams (2 lbs), depending on the method of cultivation. There are also a number of sellers who provide ready-made teabags.

In the over-the-counter remedies area, there is also pressed dandelion juice, which is mainly used for stomach and intestinal diseases.

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