Foraging Diaries - Dandelion - Taraxicum Officinale
"I am born as the Sun,
But then turn into the Moon,
As my blonde hairs turn greyish-white and falls to the ground,
Only to be buried again,
Then to be born again,
Into a thousand Suns,
And a thousand Moons"
Hymn of the Divine Dandelion - Suzy Kassem
Height: typically up to 40cm
Leaves: oblanceolate, oblong, or obovate in shape, bases gradually narrowing to the petiole. The leaf margins are typically shallowly lobed to deeply lobed and often lacerate or toothed with sharp or dull teeth
Flowers: yellow flower heads that turn into round balls of many silver-tufted fruits that disperse in the wind
Root and stem: The taproot is a large, central, and dominant root from which other roots sprout laterally, stems can be tinted purplish, they are upright or lax
Status: Short-lived perennial
Habitat: Lawns, and on roadsides, disturbed banks, shores of waterways, and other areas with moist soils
Distribution: Throughout Europe and W. Asia
Parts used for food: Roots, leaves and flowers
Harvest Time: Early Spring, although can be found May to October
Also known as Jack-piss-the-bed, Pissy beds, Pittley beds, Tiddle-beds, Wet-the-bed, Dog's posy, Old man's clock, Peasant's clock, Swine's snout. Seeds: Fairies, Parachutes, Sugar eaters. Dandelions are one of the most colourful, best known plants on earth. Nearly anywhere there is a patch of grassy ground with a sunny aspect, you will find the classic rosette of jagged leaves in clumps. As early spring arrives the grass becomes carpeted with their glorious bright yellow flowers, providing one of the first rich sources of nectar and pollen for bees and other pollinating insects continuing until late autumn. A vital source of food for bees, grasshoppers, butterflies and very specifically, the bald-faced hornet.
A visitor stopped by as I was processing the Dandelion petals.
The English name, dandelion, is derived from the French dent de lion meaning "lion's tooth", referring to the coarsely toothed leaves. Widely known for it's wet the bed reputation, Dandelion has long been used as a herbal diuretic and laxative probably due to its high potassium content. It has also been reputed over the years to treat a wide range of conditions, but this could largely be a matter of wishful thinking. It is however an exceptionally healthy food.
Dandelion greens contain vitamins A,C,E,K,B6, beta carotene, folate, thiamine, riboflavin, calcium, potassium, iron and manganese.
Some see a weed, some see a wish...
Today children will still be seen blowing Dandelion down from the round Dandelion clocks. My Dad use to say the number of blows it took to remove all of the seeds would give the hour, I was also granted a wish immediately after blowing all the seeds away. The dandelion flower opens an hour after sunrise and closes at dusk giving rise to the belief that it is a ‘Shepherd’s clock’
For the forager the Dandelion provides three crops, leaves, roots and flowers. There are numerous similar-looking plants, for example catsears and hawkbits, but the flowers of these tend to be smaller and are NOT toxic should a misidentification occur.
The leaves are best collected when the plant is young and before the flowers appear, they are not as bitter to taste then. Leaves can be added raw to salad, torn into small pieces, their bitterness will add to the bland lettuce leaves.
Dandelion roots can be paired with those of Burdock to make the delicious well known Dandelion and Burdock drink. The roots of the Dandelion can also be used to make coffee by drying them in an oven and then roasting them to finally grind them up like coffee. The result is apparently almost indistinguishable from real coffee in smell, appearance and taste.
Dandelion flowers have limited use in the kitchen, making an "interesting" tea...(not recommended), they can be added to fritters (still not all that) I can remember my Dad, as a keen home brewer mentioning Dandelion wine which he rated highly.
As a member of the same plant family as ragwort and daisy, dandelion may potentially cause allergies. However, there are few documented cases of the plant's toxicity in humans.
A recipe which does work well is that of Dandelion Honey, so I though I would give it a go...
1 hour 30 mins
4 hours over two days
2 small jars
12 cups of Dandelion Heads
1 litre of water
1/2 a lemon, sliced
2 tsp of vanilla extract
550g white sugar
Soak the gathered dandelion heads in water for 5 minutes and then drain
Remove the green section from petals by pinching and discarding (this takes time getting use to can take an hour)
Place the petals in a saucepan with 1 litre of water, the slices of lemon and the Vanilla extract
Bring to the boil, simmering for 30 minutes, then take off the heat and leave in a cool place over night
Line a colander with cheesecloth or a clean tea towel (I used one of the reusable vegetable mesh bags which can be found in some Supermarkets), place over a bowl and pour the Dandelion mixture over it. Gather the corners of the cloth lift and squeeze
Transfer the liquid to a saucepan, gradually add the sugar while stirring. Simmer for 2 - 4 hours until the consistency is honey-like
Pour into sterilised jars to store
I am going to make some Dandelion Honey Flapjacks with mine. Enjoy!
Harford, R (2019) Edible and Medicinal Wild Plants of Britain and Ireland
Wright, J (2010) River Cottage Handbook No.7 Hedgerow