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Photo by Sattva courtesy of freedigitalphotos.netPhoto by Sattva courtesy of



I think it's safe to say that everybody knows a dandelion when they see one, even if there are technically 250 species of the plant! Many have obvious differences when compared side by side but still clearly follow the same 'rules' as the other dandelion species, being the yellow feathery flower (only one per stem) turning into the familiar white pom pom when gone to seed, and a standard rosette of long deeply lobed leaves. Don't worry if you can't successfully tell all 250 from another, I certainly can't and there are many botanists that can't even be sure! Despite the variants the great thing is that it really doesn't matter which you've found since they can all be used in the same way, including it's fuzzier lookalike from the same family Catsear.


For more information on identification Wild Flower Finder has some good info:


Dandelion seedclock, courtesy of sattva at FreeDigitalPhotos.netDandelion seedclock, courtesy of sattva at FreeDigitalPhotos.netThe bane of lawn owners, my Nan would scold me for encouraging their spread them by scattering the seeds into the wind. The impressive globe of seeds is called a 'seed clock', isn't that lovely? :) Personally I like to see flowers in my lawn, when we had one, and it gives plenty of food stops for the bees and other pollinators we enjoy seeing around and indeed rely on!

The roots are said to be good for digestion, stimulating both the production of stomach acid and bile, and can also help to lower blood pressure. Needless to say, the medicinal potency of wild foods often means that you should consume with caution if on medication and never in large amounts or for extended periods of time. Another word of warning is that the plants contain a compound known as Taraxinic Acid which has been known to cause contact dermatitis in some cases.

With other common names such as wet weed and piss-a-bed, it's also associated with creating an urge to urinate but relax contrary to tall tales it won't be through merely picking one. Dandelion is used in medicine as a diuretic, meaning that much alike tea or coffee it will cause you to wish to urinate and helps those suffering water retention. It's worth noting that unlike pharmaceutical diuretic drugs dandelion does not have the problem of leaching potassium from the body. It's flushing and liver supporting properties make it an ideal cleansing tonic after a heavy night of drinking.

2 inches of digging and still no root...2 inches of digging and still no root...If you've grown your own cut-and-come-again lettuce you may notice that the leaves are surprisingly similar in appearance, and in fact can be eaten as part of a salad in the same way. I'll bet your friends will think it's simply a fancy variety of rocket, not that I condone tricking people into eating your garden weeds... Spring is the best time of year to include the leaves since they are young and fresh, by autumn the leaves have become tough and bitter yet the large tap root beneath will be at it's biggest which is what today's post is all about.

Gardeners will know the difficulty of pulling a dandelion root without breaking and leaving a chunk behind, the remnants of which the entire plant can then regenerate from but that won't be a problem now you know how valuable the plant is! The trouble is that they've very cleverly evolved to break when pulled, so much so that even if you feel you have a good strong grasp of the entire upper plant it will break leaving you with nothing but a handful of bitter leaves! The trick is to dig around the root as best you can to loosen the soil and only pull when you are sure that you have enough exposed to use. If dandelion will be making a regular appearance on the menu, perhaps it's time to invest in one of these fancy weed pullers... ;)

Don't expect to be pulling up anything even half as thick as carrots or other cultivated root vegetables unless you've found yourself a monster plant, you'll more than likely need to dig up a great many for a straggly set of edible roots. Hardly worth it you might say, though remember that wild plants have a greater nutrient density than their cultivated cousins. 

Now the really hard work is over, you just need to clean them up. Give them a good scrub and peel the tough skins by scraping with a sharp knife, removing as much soil and grit as you can, I found that a few scrapes in one direction then some in the other was enough to get the outer layer off. We didn't notice any grit or toughness despite leaving some discoloured areas After another rinse for good measure chop and boil in slightly salted water like you would a carrot. Some sources recommend a change of water followed by a second boiling to remove the bitterness, though I feel that you would also be reducing the health benefits of the final vegetable. Double boiling may be necessary for much older and larger roots.

They have a very pleasant flavour, reminiscent of potato and Celeriac, or perhaps a Jerusalem Artichoke. I urge you not to be afraid as they're much nicer than I admit they appear in photos!

For best results on slimmer roots boil for around 5 mins until just tender then drain the cooking water and serve with a knob of butter along with some other veggies. The few dandelions around us were on the skinny side (I may have jinxed myself by deciding to write a post featuring them!) but I'll certainly have my eye out for bigger stands. Here's ours mixed with some baby carrots from our summer sowing and frozen peas, RIGHT>


It is still illegal to uproot a plant without the landowners permission, even if it is widely considered a nuisance so make sure you get permission to do so – after all an equal nuisance would be finding holes all over the village green! Also beware that many parks and lawns are treated with chemical pesticides so be sure to ask about the spraying practices when asking said permission.


Supposedly the 'milk' can be used as a kind of rubber substitute, if you can gather enough of it that is. The flowers make good wine judging by the amount of recipes online, and also serve purpose in skin care and medicine. If you're trying to give up coffee it might be worth roasting some root as it's supposedly a good alternative, without the caffeine and some healing benefits instead. Dandelion is such a versatile plant with many uses, of which I intend to make use of in time to come! I've decided to save some back until I obtain a couple of good chunks of Burdock root, since Ryan is a big fan of the drink Dandelion & Burdock. I think we know what's happening next week... ;)


So what do you think? Are you now eyeing the weeds in your garden with a new appreciation? Let us know how you get on in the comments below!  


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Sarah is an artist and writer with a lifetime interest in camping and survival techniques.

Living the #vanlife since before it was a hashtag and touring on two wheels with her husband Ryan, they have a wealth of camping and motorcycling knowledge to share, and know a thing or two about packing light! read more

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