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Dandelions - A nutritious edible weed

Updated on October 06, 2014
The dandelion plant in this photo was growing in the back of our house.
The dandelion plant in this photo was growing in the back of our house. | Source

Dandelions(part of "Edible Weeds in Los Angeles")

Information, recipes and fun, all related to the lovely dandelion.

Dandelions are one of the world's most famous weeds. To a lot of people, in fact, they are the poster girl for all weeds. While they are the targets of wrath from many, they are also useful edible plants, one of the favorites of wild food foragers.

Let's get to know dandelions a little better.

A beautiful field of dandelions that have gone to seed
A beautiful field of dandelions that have gone to seed | Source

Getting acquainted with dandelion

Dandelion - Taraxacum officinale

The binomial name for dandelion is Taraxacum officinale. There is dispute about the meaning of the Latin word Taraxacum. A common belief is that it is derived from the Greek words taraxos ("disorder") and akos ("remedy"), referring to the medicinal qualities of the plant.

The term officinale is frequently used in botanical Latin to denote plants that are used in medical practice.

The English name "dandelion" comes from the French phrase dent de lion ("lion's tooth"), probably a reference to the jagged, toothed shape of the leaves.

Dandelions were originally brought to the Americas by the Colonists who used it as a garden vegetable.

Source

Identifying dandelions

The most prominent feature of the dandelion, of course, is the yellow flower.

Even at the youngest ages, dandelion leaves stick to their circular formation.
Even at the youngest ages, dandelion leaves stick to their circular formation. | Source
Older dandelion leaves in the same rosette pattern.
Older dandelion leaves in the same rosette pattern. | Source

Dandelion leaves form a beautiful rosette at the base of the plant.

Source

When the flower goes to seed, it transforms into the puffball beloved by children everywhere.


Dandelion has a hollow stem. Both stem and leaves exude a sticky white sap when broken.

Learning to recognize dandelion leaves on their own is helpful in foraging because the leaves are the least bitter when they're picked before the plant flowers.

One flower per stem.  That's dandelion for you.
One flower per stem. That's dandelion for you. | Source

How is dandelion different from sow thistle?

Differentiating two lovely edible weeds

There are other wild plants that have flowers that look just like the dandelion flower. One that we have a lot of here in Los Angeles is the sow thistle (Sonchus oleraceus). Sow thistle is a close relative and a wonderful edible weed in its own right, but it's not the same species as dandelion. Here's how to tell them apart:

  • Dandelion plants have only one flower per stalk. Sow thistles can have many flowers sprouting out on each stalk (see photos on the sow thistle page).

  • Dandelion leaves only grow at the base of the plant. On the sow thistle, leaves are seen going all the way up the stalk, as well as at the base.

    I also find that dandelions like to grow in areas where there is a little more moisture. They don't care for some of the drier soils that sow thistles spring up in. My neighbors who water their yards more often get more dandelions. I get more sow thistles.

    Sow thistle and dandelion remind me of the cousin characters from the Patty Duke Show. Dandelions are like Cathy, the graceful and glamorous one. Sow thistles are like the more rough-and-tumble Patty. But both are beautiful in their own way.

Dandelion videos

One is a foraging video from Dean Greene's "Eat the Weeds" series, the other is a cooking video about dandelion fritters.

Foraging tip

One of the great things about edible weeds is that they are organic -- we hope! Make sure that you gather your wild edibles from areas that are NOT sprayed with pesticides!

Nutritional info about dandelions

Way cool! Dandelion greens have their own page of nutrition facts at NutritionData.com!

Quoting directly from them: "This food is low in Saturated Fat, and very low in Cholesterol. It is also a good source of Folate, Magnesium, Phosphorus and Copper, and a very good source of Dietary Fiber, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin E (Alpha Tocopherol), Vitamin K, Thiamin, Riboflavin, Vitamin B6, Calcium, Iron, Potassium and Manganese."

This is one of the most artistic dandelion pictures I've ever seen.
This is one of the most artistic dandelion pictures I've ever seen. | Source

Eating dandelions

Suggestions and recipes

The flowers, leaves, and roots of the dandelion are all edible.

I like both the leaves and the flowers as a part of salads. I have also eaten dandelion/sow thistle flowers in pasta and put them in vinegar.

Dandelion leaves are best if you pick them before the plant flowers! The older the leaves get, the more bitterness they have. Older leaves are still good to eat, but they're better cooked to remove some of the bitter taste. Young leaves are best for salads.

The flowers are fun to eat straight out of hand, too, if you pick off the green base of the flower first.

DANDY BLEND INSTANT HERBAL BEVERAGE with Dandelion 7.05 oz
DANDY BLEND INSTANT HERBAL BEVERAGE with Dandelion 7.05 oz

I don't like coffee myself, but a lot of people say that roasted dandelion root makes a good coffee substitute.

 

There are tons of dandelion recipes on the internet! Here are a few examples:

And there's a bunch more. Explore!

Cookbooks that include dandelion recipes

Mary at the Farm: and Book of Recipes Compiled during Her Visit among the "Pennsylvania Germans"
Mary at the Farm: and Book of Recipes Compiled during Her Visit among the "Pennsylvania Germans"

Includes recipes for dandelion wine and German dressing to use on dandelion greens.

 
The Dandelion Celebration: A Guide to Unexpected Cuisine
The Dandelion Celebration: A Guide to Unexpected Cuisine

A reviewer at Amazon said, "more recipes than I could try in a year . . ."

It appears to be out of print and only available through third parties.

 
A single dandelion seed, venturing out to start a family of its own.
A single dandelion seed, venturing out to start a family of its own. | Source

Dandelion folklore

Many superstitions and folklore revolve around dandelions. The blossoms were woven into wedding bouquets to bring good luck to the newlyweds, and dreams about dandelions were said to represent a happy marriage.

The most common focus of dandelion superstitions involved the flowers after they have gone to seed. Blowing on a seed head could tell you whether your lover was true to you, how many years you had left to live, or how many children you would have.

The best-known superstition is that if you can blow all of the seeds off the dandelion in one blow, you will be granted a wish.

The seeds, of course, float through the air and find new landing spots, where they germinate quickly. Knowing this, I have figured out how to always get my wish granted -- I just wish for more dandelions to grow. When I blow, I'm making my wish come true.

Medicinal uses of dandelion

Dandelions have a long history of medicinal use. The first written mention of this is in Arabian medical texts of the 10th and 11th centuries.

Dandelion is known for its diuretic properties. The French word for dandelion is pissenlit which means "pee in bed". Because of the plant's high potassium content, it doesn't have the potassium-depleting side effect that is common with many diuretic drugs.

Dandelion is highly esteemed as a remedy for liver problems. It is also recommended for treatment of urinary, kidney, and digestive disorders.

The white sap of the dandelion stem is believed to be healing to the skin.

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    • ismeedee profile image

      ismeedee 3 years ago

      I'm glad you included the black box message not to collect dandelions from areas where pesticides have been in use. It's exactly my problem; I don't know where it is safe around here to get them!

    • profile image

      lakebottomblanket 4 years ago

      Amazing I never thought of this,thanks for such info

    • karen-stephens profile image

      karen-stephens 4 years ago

      we eat dandilions and you can pay lots for them at a organic store

    • Wendy Gillissen profile image

      Wendy Gillissen 4 years ago

      Another 'weed' that will go on my menu! I can't wait to make a dandelion salad:-)

    • joanhall profile image
      Author

      Joan Hall 4 years ago from Los Angeles

      @Vilja: Thanks for pointing that out! Flickr was acting up on me, but now it's fixed.

    • Vilja profile image

      Vilja 4 years ago from Helsinki

      I had no idea dandelions were edible! So cool! I actually remember being warned not to eat them as a little child because they would be "poisonous". I guess they were wrong!

      I don't really mind, but I should point out that you have a couple of broken image links in this lens!

    • ILoveNature profile image

      ILoveNature 4 years ago

      Thanks, this is a great addition to a salad and it make a beautiful (edible) garnish.

    • Steph Tietjen profile image

      Stephanie Tietjen 4 years ago from Albuquerque, New Mexico

      I haven't had Dandelions for awhile and I saw a few growing, so I am reminded to harvest them for a salad today. My favorite weed.

    • Tamara14 profile image

      Tamara Kajari 4 years ago from Zagreb, Croatia, Europe

      Beautifully done :)

    • JohnTannahill profile image

      John Tannahill 4 years ago from Somewhere in England

      I had a vague idea you could eat them but now I'm going to try it.

    • profile image

      GilliansCloud 4 years ago

      Hello Joan, thank you for a very informative lens. I didn't know that there were recipes for dandelions. I had heard that one could eat them, I had no idea the ways to prepare them. Now if I could get my husband to try them. :) He won't even drink the tea.

    • JoanieMRuppel54 profile image

      Joanie Ruppel 4 years ago from Keller, Texas

      My grandmother used to forage our front yard for dandelions and I was so embarrassed! Little did I know how resourceful she was being and using skills growing up in a European country.

    • biminibahamas profile image

      biminibahamas 4 years ago

      WOW! Gonna have to try the fritters ... I make green smoothies with the leaves, but never knew what to do with the flowers other than tea

    • intermarks profile image

      intermarks 4 years ago

      I didn't know that dandelions can be eaten. I will give it a try if I have got some of it.

    • UKGhostwriter profile image

      UKGhostwriter 4 years ago

      I love it in salad!

    • ItayaLightbourne profile image

      Itaya Lightbourne 4 years ago from Topeka, KS

      Wonderful article! I knew that dandelions are very good to use in internal cleansing. I'm thinking about strolling out to get some to add to my vegetable smoothies from our yard about now. Thanks for pointing out the differences between dandelions and sow thistle. :)

    • profile image

      katieross 4 years ago

      Until recently I'd never heard of or tried dandelion, but they're becoming so popular! Great lens!

    • profile image

      KaraAshton 4 years ago

      Great lens. I didn't know any of this and now I will think twice before I get rid of these out of my lawn. I love the flower, it such a pretty yellow.

    • vetochemicals profile image

      Cindy 4 years ago from Pittsburgh Pa

      Dandelions are my moms favorite salad, she's eaten it since she was a young girl. I'll have to share this with her, she'll love it:)

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      I've been battling with ridding my garden of them, which is a thankless task - maybe I should try eating them instead!

    • shwetashah profile image

      shwetashah 4 years ago

      I landed to this page read whole page and after checking author its you Joan, my first squidoo friend. :)

    • profile image

      YourFirstTime 4 years ago

      Dandelions are quite the medicinal herb. I'll never look at them the same way.

    • Patricia Meadows profile image

      Patricia Meadows 4 years ago

      Thanks a lot for the great information. You've managed to answer a question that I've had for years about the dandelion weeds in my yard. Thanks.

    • whats4dinner profile image

      whats4dinner 4 years ago

      Thank you for sharing this informative lens. It's good to know that a weed like this can be edible and have medicinal benefits.

    • Rosaquid profile image

      Rosaquid 4 years ago

      I am encouraged to try them; I certainly have plenty! Thanks!

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      I used to eat dandelion greens when I lived in Chicago. Seems they sprouted just about everywhere. Like you state in your article, its the young leaves that are the best.

    • profile image

      Rickcpl 4 years ago

      nice lens

    • profile image

      getwellsoon 4 years ago

      I have always heard that you can eat them but I haven't tried it yet. Thanks for the informative lens!

    • blazingzone lm profile image

      blazingzone lm 4 years ago

      Thanks for sharing, great lens.

    • profile image

      vBizeso 4 years ago

      Nice Lens

    • profile image

      getmoreinfo 4 years ago

      This is a nice tribute to edible weeds, sometimes we forget about all the wild plants that we can eat and enjoy.

    • BLouw profile image

      Barbara Walton 4 years ago from France

      I live in Limousin, France and the older residents still go out collecting dandelion leaves. They call them 'pisse au lit', or "wet the bed", here.

    • Linda Pogue profile image

      Linda Pogue 4 years ago from Missouri

      I am more and more convinced we should learn about the edible plants that grow all around us. Blessings.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      i had no idea they were edible, wow!

    • John Dyhouse profile image

      John Dyhouse 4 years ago from UK

      Informative lens, I used to be into free food and would forage often when first married. I did make dandelion root coffee. I found it quite palatable but probably roasted it for too long as I found it bitter, never tried it a second time. - blessed

    • profile image

      JZinoBodyArt 4 years ago

      I keep roasted Dandelion root around for tea but I hear it is a great alternative to Coffee! If you don't have time to roast it yourself, it may turn up in health food and vegan stores sometimes.

    • Pam Irie profile image

      Pam Irie 4 years ago from Land of Aloha

      I loved dandelion jelly growing up in the MidWest. :)

    • KimGiancaterino profile image

      KimGiancaterino 4 years ago

      We have lots of dandelions growing in our paver driveway. The seeds must blow in from neighboring lawns. We'll just add them to our salads!

    • Diana Wenzel profile image

      Renaissance Woman 4 years ago from Colorado

      Very interesting lens. Dandelion fritters... wow, who would have thought? They look delicious. Something I will definitely try. The French name is very descriptive. I'll keep that in mind when I go foraging for dandelions. Thanks for another great article and congrats on your feature.

    • SheilaMilne profile image

      SheilaMilne 4 years ago from Kent, UK

      Pissenlit salad is very common here in France. I remember being shown around a house we were thinking of renting and the lady owner took us into the garden and said on no account were we to weed out the dandelions! :)

    • LynetteBell profile image

      LynetteBell 4 years ago from Christchurch, New Zealand

      I knew you could eat dandelions but I've never tried them

    • winter aconite profile image

      winter aconite 4 years ago

      I like the young leaves but they get a bit too bitter for my taste when older. I've never tried the flower. Must give it a go

    • Pam Irie profile image

      Pam Irie 4 years ago from Land of Aloha

      Growing up in the Midwest, people used to make dandelion jelly. Very tasty too. :)

    • N Beaulieu profile image

      N Beaulieu 4 years ago

      Great lens. I can't wait to give eating dandelions a try & check out some of your other lenses.

    • mihgasper profile image

      Miha Gasper 4 years ago from Ljubljana, Slovenia, EU

      Dandelions are very popular in Slovenia for salads. Right now is best growing season. Good appetite!

    • empathzone profile image

      empathzone 5 years ago

      Great lens! When I decided to give dandelion a try, I found myself very confused and not knowing if I had it right or not. Now I get it! And enjoy it regularly.

      I just finished a lens talking about identification too, will add this one in the related lenses list!

    • profile image

      Annamadagan 5 years ago

      Nice lens! In the summer, we get SO many of these things in my backyard!

    • profile image

      jimmyworldstar 5 years ago

      For a long time I didn't know dandelions were weeds. I remember kids thought blowing on them would tell your fortune. Thanks for the excellent lens!

    • RawBill1 profile image

      Bill 5 years ago from Gold Coast, Australia

      I can remember as a child believing that the dandelion seeds floating through the air were fairies! Must have been my mum that told me that one! LOL

    • sousababy profile image

      sousababy 5 years ago

      Wow, this is fantastic. I had no idea there were so many uses for dandelions. Congrats on a well-deserved purple star. Google +1'd this gem too. Take good care, Rose

    • PNWtravels profile image

      Vicki Green 5 years ago from Wandering the Pacific Northwest USA

      Dandelions are so under-appreciated! Maybe this lens will help people realize their value.

    • JJNW profile image

      JJNW 5 years ago from USA

      Oh yay -a use for all those "weeds" in my yard. Thanks. With this economy, I may gather some up to share at my local food bank. All organic at our house!

      Neat page!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I love your lenses! I did know that dandelions were edible, I just never knew how to eat them. I'll give some of these ideas a try now--we have an inexhaustible supply!

    • LouisaDembul profile image

      LouisaDembul 6 years ago

      We used to feed our rabbits dandelion leaves....But I like them in salad!

    • Othercatt profile image

      Othercatt 6 years ago

      I love dandelions! I've been eating them since I was a child. Back then I ate them because I was told not too, but now I eat them because they are so nutritious! Thanks for the lensroll. I'm rolling right back at you!

    • joanhall profile image
      Author

      Joan Hall 6 years ago from Los Angeles

      @Kailua-KonaGirl: That's a good reminder. I've got a blurb about watching out for pesticides in the main lensography, but I should make sure that it's repeated in the individual lenses.

    • Kailua-KonaGirl profile image

      June Parker 6 years ago from New York

      Great lens, Joan! I just want to leave a wee reminder. Be careful where you pick your dandelions to eat. Be sure they are not growing in an area that has been spayed with insecticides.

    • profile image

      julieannbrady 6 years ago

      I personally like the way dandelions looks, but hadn't thought of eating them before.

    • Franksterk profile image

      Frankie Kangas 6 years ago from California

      I have tons of dandelions in part of my yard. I never thought to eat them. After reading this excellent lens, I am starting to think about these "weeds" differently and I can't wait to try them in salads. Thanks for sharing. Bear hugs, Frankster

    • CastleRoyLisa profile image

      Lisa 6 years ago from Rhode Island

      My mom and a couple other ladies in our neighborhood used to pick dandelions all summer to eat. Mom would get upset sometimes because the greens would cook down so much she would say this is way i pick so many lol wonderful lens I really enjoyed it and learned a lot.

    • eclecticeducati1 profile image

      eclecticeducati1 6 years ago

      Great lens! I'm trying to learn more about good nutrition and medical herbs.

    • KarenHC profile image

      Karen 6 years ago from U.S.

      Thanks for your comments on my dandelion lens -- am lensrolling yours to mine :-)

    • LoKackl profile image

      LoKackl 6 years ago

      Fun lens. I never knew!! blessed!

    • profile image

      foreverme 7 years ago

      Well written and very informative. I give you 5*s!

    • OhMe profile image

      Nancy Tate Hellams 7 years ago from Pendleton, SC

      Back to lensroll to my Dandelions lens

    • ssuthep profile image

      ssuthep 7 years ago

      Squid Angel blessings for this informative and well illustrated lens.

    • OhMe profile image

      Nancy Tate Hellams 7 years ago from Pendleton, SC

      I don't eat Dandelions but I sure do like to look at them and to blow the puffball. Great lens. Blessed by a Squid Angel.

    • religions7 profile image

      religions7 7 years ago

      :) great lens. I had no idea how these flowers were called in English. Now I do. Thanks. Blessed by a squidangel & will list on my 'english as a second language' lens.

    • Demaw profile image

      Demaw 7 years ago

      They are a nutritious wild flower, You have to be careful where you pick them since people use all kinds of sprays to get rid of them. 5*

    • ArtByLinda profile image

      Linda Hoxie 7 years ago from Idaho

      Great lens, I had no idea they are edible! :) Thanks for stopping by and commenting on my specialty lenses lens! I appreciate you.

    • AlishaV profile image

      Alisha Vargas 7 years ago from Reno, Nevada

      I've always wanted to try dandelions, I've heard so many good things about them, and I love the idea of weeds being used for something :-)

    • profile image

      GrowWear 7 years ago

      Dandelions are a nuisance in caring for a lawn, but I love them anyway. The flowers are pretty, and the little girl in me still likes to make a wish and blow on the seed puff. :)

    • Sylvestermouse profile image

      Cynthia Sylvestermouse 7 years ago from United States

      Blowing dandelion seeds is one of my favorite childhood memories. Life was so easy and "free" then. Kind of like the dandelion seeds I guess.

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      I haven't eaten dandelions but I know many people do.

    • jptanabe profile image

      Jennifer P Tanabe 7 years ago from Red Hook, NY

      Nice lens. Of course we have too many dandelions in our lawn, although the bright yellow can be cheery. And yes, I used to enjoy blowing the seeds till I realized I was helping them grow everywhere! I didn't know about sow thistles before, guess I'll have to check out that lens next!

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      Nice lens, I never seen Dandelion plants. 5*

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