The Common Dandelion Is Truly An Edible Dandelion For All Seasons. It Is A Wonderful Salad Leaf Crop All Year & The French Have Named Edible Varieties.
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There are over 30 species of dandelion, but most of us know the common edible dandelion,Taraxacum officinale, best. But even within this one species, which now spans most of the northern hemisphere, there are several named varieties, many of the notable ones being French.
And that isnt the end of the variety of dandelions. In the British Isles we have no fewer than 234 micro species of dandelion. I.e. morphologically distinct clonal populations.
The common yellow dandelion is therefore known to most of us. With its bright yellow flowers and dandelion parachute seeds it is very recognisable. But, as I show below, not all dandelions are yellow.
Gardeners usually recognise the dandelion as a deep tap rooted “weed” that can soon colonise a garden or allotment when the wind distributes its many seeds. Seeds that can travel miles before landing and springing into life.
In this article I am going to show you another side of the dandelion. You might even start to love them. And I hope to explain a few things about dandelions that not a lot of people know.
Edible Dandelion Fact Number One
Fact one can be summed up in one word. Apomixis.
Don’t worry if you don’t recognise this word. Apomixis isn’t a word many people know because we don’t come across it every day. It’s a botanical word that is applied to the process of asexual reproduction found in some plants. There are actually two or three ways in which this can happen. For example when plantlets or bulbils form on a plant are are used to produce new plants. But in this case I am using it where the seed is produced without sexual reproduction. That’s apomixis.
There are more gardening and botanical words in my gardening dictionary.
Edible Dandelions And History
It’s often said that people have been eating dandelions since time began! They’ve also been used medicinally for much of that time, often was a diuretic, which leads to its name in several European cultures and languages.
Later in history the Pilgrim Fathers took dandelion seeds on the Mayflower and the plant soon established in North America where it was soon adopted by native Americans.
Tha Latin name, Taraxacum probably comes from the Arabic word, tarashaquq , and was used in pharmaceutical texts in medieval times. In translation, around 1170, Gerard of Cremona used the word Tarasacon. And over the years this became taraxacum.
As for the local names used across Europe, the story is one of copying the sound of the word. The French are probably the source of the word dandelion. They called it lions tooth, or in French, dent de lion. Or it may have come from the Medieval Latin word “dentis leonis. Or maybe from Latin through French. It is similar tot he what porc and boeuf became pork and beef, though the timings are likely different.
The plant is also known in /English as as witch’s gowan, yellow-gowan, milk witch, blowball, cankerwort, monks-head, priest’s-crown, doon-head-clock, Irish daisy, and puff-ball.
The English name, dandelion, is a corruption of the French dent de lion which translates as “lion’s tooth”, and refers to the coarsely toothed leaves which resemble a lions teeth. . The plant is also known as witch’s gowan, yellow-gowan, blowball, cankerwort, doon-head-clock, puff-ball, lion’s-tooth, faceclock, pee-a-bed, wet-a-bed, Irish daisy, monks-head, and priest’s-crown.
The English folk name “piss-a-bed“, which equates with the French pissenlit, references the diuretic effect of the plant. In Swedish it is called maskros, in Afrikaans it is paardebloem, in German it is Löwenzahn ie lions tooth, whilst in Norwegian it is løvetann.
And while thinking about the Norwegian name for dandelions, there’s another fact to consider. In Norway,Stephan Barstow, and others, take dandelions in containers into their cellars in late autumn. They then force them and eat the forced leaves during winter. Fresh green salads from a forced “weed”. It makes sense to me.
Named Dandelion Varieties
Vert de Montmagny
Also known as Montmagny Dandelion, this variety is cultivated for its tender leaves, which are often used in salads. It has deep green leaves and a mild flavor compared to wild dandelions. ‘Vert de Montmagny’ is a large-leaved, vigorous grower, which matures early.
This variety is cultivated for its broad leaves, making it suitable for culinary use. The leaves are less bitter than wild dandelions, and they can be used in salads or cooked dishes.
Taraxacum officinale ‘Tête à Tête’
A compact variety that is often used in ornamental gardens. ‘Tête à Tête’ has small, yellow flowers and a shorter stature than the common wild dandelion.
Ameliore à Coeur Plein
Cultivated for culinary purposes, Ameliore is known for its tender leaves. The leaves are less bitter than wild dandelions, and they can be used in salads or cooked dishes. Amélioré à Coeur Plein’ yields an abundant crop without taking up much ground, and tends to blanch itself naturally, due to its clumping growth habit.
This variety is notable for its red-tinged leaves.The red color adds visual interest, and the leaves can be used in salads.
Pissenlit à Coeur Plein
Translated as “Full Heart Dandelion,” this variety is cultivated for its densely packed leaves. The leaves are often used in salads, and the variety is prized for its tenderness.
As the name suggests, this variety has broader leaves compared to the wild dandelion. The leaves are less bitter, and it is often cultivated for culinary use. The leaves are thick and tender and easily blanched. In rich soils, they can be up to 60 cm (2′) wide. Plants do not go to seed as quickly as French types.
Red-Leafed Dandelion (Taraxacum erythrospermum)
This variety is known for its red-tinged leaves, adding visual interest to salads.
Russian Dandelion (Taraxacum kok-saghyz)
Not a culinary variety, but noteworthy for its rubber-producing potential. This species has been studied for its latex content, which could be used as a source of natural rubber.
How To Grow Edible Dandelion
This section is really a non starter. You don’t need to know how to grow dandelions. They already know how to grow .. and it’s almost impossible to stop them once they decide to.
Edible Dandelion Culinary Uses
Dandelions are an excellent salad leaf. Mixed with other leaf crops they can add a bitterness to the mix. Or at least some cultivars do and hence the dandelion is sometimes called wild endive. Though of course it’s not an endive at all.
Sauteed or Stir-Fried Greens: Dandelion greens can be sautéed or stir-fried with garlic and olive oil. This cooking method helps mellow the bitterness while preserving the nutritional value.
Dandelion Pesto: Use dandelion greens as a base for pesto, combining them with garlic, nuts (such as pine nuts or walnuts), Parmesan cheese, and olive oil. This creates a flavourful and nutritious spread for pasta or bread.
Dandelion Fritters: Dip dandelion flowers in batter and fry them to make dandelion fritters. This creates a unique and crispy treat.
Dandelion Tea: Dandelion roots can be dried and roasted to make a caffeine-free coffee substitute. Dandelion leaf tea is also popular in places and can be made by steeping fresh or dried leaves.
Dandelion Syrup or Jelly: Dandelion flowers can be used to make syrup or jelly, adding a sweet twist to this often-overlooked plant.
Dandelion Wine: For those interested in home brewing, dandelions can be used to make a floral and unique dandelion wine. Sweeten it with honey if you prefer. Or make a dandelion flavoured mead.
Smoothies: Add fresh dandelion leaves to your smoothies for a nutrient boost. Any bitterness can be balanced with sweeter fruits.
Other Uses For Dandelions
Let’s forget the culinary for the moment. Dandelions are a great feed plants for bees, especially early in the year.
They also look wonderful. Personally I don’t like all grass lawns. For me grass lawns should be peppered with daisies and dandelions.
Image attribution pexels-pixabay-39669
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