Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Word Wednesday: Taraxacum officinale

or common Dandelion. This top photo is from botanical.com, where I learned that a true dandelion's leaves are not hairy, but are shiny and point up straight and tall to allow maximum water drainage directly to the taproot. The genus Taraxacum consists of about 40 different species worldwide.

While Dandelion is a weed, it does have desirable qualities one might consider before eradicating it from one's yard. The taproot of a Dandelion can be beneficial in a clay soil environment because it aerates the soil and facilitates water drainage to other plant roots.

Nutritionally, it is a source of vitamins A, B complex, C, and D, and contains iron, potassium, and zinc. (source.) Dandelion greens are nutritious and flavorful in salads. They can also be steamed, and if harvested after they first appear, the flavor is less bitter than the older leaves. Our diets used to naturally include bitter tasting herbs and seeds, but in recent years, we have shunned bitter for the more pleasurable (maybe) savory and sweet.

However, anecdotal information suggests that bitter might signal the presence of another B vitamin (B17), and that this vitamin might be very important to our overall health at a cellular level. One such testimonial exists about Dandelion root. Historically, the roots and leaves have been used to treat ailments such as liver disfunction, kidney disease, digestive disorders, skin problems, appendicitis, and breast inflammation. (source.)

Dandelion petals are collected en masse by makers of wild wines. At Eat Like a Wild Man, I found a recipe for Dandelion fritters and Dandelion wine. Both of these are certainly worth a look-see. WikiHow has a 10-step tutorial to making Dandelion wine, and says that April and May are the best months to harvest and make this wine.

I was surprised to find that the root of a certain species of the plant has been considered as an alternative to the rubber tree for making rubber. In 2008, Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center was awarded a $3 million grant to research making rubber from the roots of Russian Dandelions (Taraxacum kok-saghyz) .

With all these useful and beneficial traits, how did the dandelion become the bane of the lawn? I think the grass should actually be envious. Common yard grass provides no human sustenance at all. Beware the imposters, however. I went looking in my yard for Dandelion, which should look like this: (photo from this source)and I actually found this:What I have is Catsear, or false dandelion. Also known as Hypochoeris Radicata. Mine has hairy leaves, and true Dandelion has shiny leaves with no hair. So no Dandelion wine for me, but I did read that the leaves of my variety are still edible. Additionally, it is a genus/species that is commonly used in mixed soups in Sicily.

So go ahead and gather Dandelions, make Dandelion chains,
and hold the flower under your chin to see if you like butter.

Photobucket

3 comments:

Audrey said...

Thanks for the comments on my blog about upcycling/recycling! I should have asked your opinion first!!

We are HamakerLove! said...

As an herbalist I got really excited when I learned how useful dandelion is! And since my yard was FULL of it this spring I decided to collect a ton and start adding it to my fruity green smoothies. I added a huge handful to my first smoothie, and WHOA. Forgot that dandelion is a great liver cleanser. My tummy started cleansing right away, and was very uncomfortable for a day or two. Little amounts are always safe, but beware of big amounts if there is any chance your liver is not at its cleanest!:)

Erin said...

dandelions are my favourite! it used to make me sad to have to mow the lawn and take them all out. I do love the vintage botanical books like your image has, they're so evocative and earthy compared to what we get today!