A perennial which grows on a stout taproot to 30 cm (1 ft.) long, it has a basal rosette of leaves and yellow, solitary flowers followed by spherical, fluffy seed heads.
History and traditions
Although known much earlier in Chinese medicine, the dandelion was first recognized in Europe in the 10th or 11th century, through the influence of the Arabian physicians, then prominent as medical authorities. The name, dandelion, comes from the French dents de lion, lion’s tooth.
Native to Europe and Asia, and occurs widely in temperate regions of the world, often found on nitrogen-rich soils.
Grows in profusion in the wild and self-seeds. Cultivated dandelions are grown in moist, fertile soil. Propagated from seed.
Leaves, flowers fresh for culinary use, fresh or dried for medicinal preparations; roots dried.
An effective diuretic, it is taken internally for urinary infections and dis-eases of the liver and gall bladder. Considered beneficial for rheumatic complaints and gout. Also said to improve appetite and digestion. Of great benefit nutritionally, high in vitamins A and C and a rich source of iron, magnesium, potassium and calcium.
Young leaves of dandelions are added to salads, often blanched first to reduce bitter-ness, or cooked, like spinach, as a vegetable. Flowers are made into wine. The roasted root makes a palatable, soothing, caffeine-free substitute for coffee.