Dandelion Taraxacum officinale

A member of the Asteraceae family, this plant has a variety of descriptive names around the world, eg Blow ball, Lion’s Tooth, Cankerwort, Priest’s Snout.

We pull out this perennial regarding it as a weed, but over many years it has proved to be a valuable herb. The plant has a long strong taproot, jagged, hairless leaves forming a base rosette, and hollow stemmed single flower heads which mature to form the “dandelion clock” we all know so well. All plant stems have a milky sap. The plant is smooth, cold, soft and moist to the touch, has an earthy, slightly savoury smell, the leaves are bitter, salty and pleasant to the taste, while the flower petals are sweet tasting. The young leaves may be eaten as a spring salad, the flower petals used in salads, in baking, and in drinks, the insulin rich roots, collected in autumn can be dried and used as a coffee substitute. All parts of the plant are a useful stimulant for liver and kidney function and have a high insulin content. The white latex in the stems is useful to treat warts .

If cultivated, the plants can provide an attractive, useful, quite large yellow flowered border plant. BUT, remember to snip off the seed “clock” heads before they mature and fly away or you may regret it!

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