Dandelions, Taraxacum officinale have Many Uses

Dandelions, Taraxacum officinale or T. vulgare, are a member of the Sunflower plant family and their spring flowers are a source of nutrition for bees as they emerge in the spring. 

When we were growing up in rural southwest Ohio, our grandmother sent us out to collect dandelion greens for her salad, calling them her spring tonic. By example, she taught us old-world nutrition (plus gardening, baking and yoga). 

Now that we have food science, it is widely-accepted that 1-cup of dandelion greens contains 25 calories, 500% of the daily recommended vitamin K and 100 % of vitamins A and C. They have been used medicinally for thousands of years. Today Dandelions are widely used in herb teas such as Pukka.

The roots are also roasted to use as a chicory coffee substitute and the greens are said to be good for cleansing liver, kidneys, and blood, improving digestion, lowering blood pressure and cholesterol. 

The Sprouts Farmers Market chain sells dandelion greens in their produce department but they are the farmed or cultivated varieties with lettuce-size leaves. Eipcurious.com provides recipes for sautéed Dandelion greens, FineCooking.com has a salad recipe and dandelion greens are frequently added to smoothies.

Pickled dandelion buds are used as a substitute for capers. Dandelion Syrup is made by cooking and infusing the flowers with sugar, water and lemon juice. 

To grow them as a garden crop, collect seeds from your yard or purchase seeds from Burpee.com, ArtisticGardens.com,  or Territorial Seed. Grow them in part-shade to reduce their bitterness. 

The gourmet varieties include: Vert de Montmagny, Ameliore a Coeur Plein, and Arlington Dandelion. White, Pink and Russian Dandelion seeds are available from PlantGoodSeed.com.

Perennial Russian Dandelion, Taraxacum kok-saghyz, also called Rubber Root, is from Kazakhstan/Uzbekistan. Plant breeders at Ford Motor Co. and Ohio State University are researching it to replace synthetic car parts such as cup holders. In Europe they already have a prototype dandelion car tire.

Eat them, drink them or drive on them, dandelions are more than just a pretty face.

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