Common Name Dandelion
Scientific name: Taraxacum officinalis agg.
Family: Asteraceae (Daisy)
Everyone recognises Dandelion, from blowing dandelion “clocks” to digging the long roots out of your garden. I like to think of this common weed as “free salad” and, in fact, “free coffee” too!
This familiar plant of lawns, grassland and waste areas has single sun-like flowerheads on a hollow stalk above a rosette of long, deeply-lobed leaves. The tap root is long and can be several centimetres in diameter.
Nearly every part of a dandelion is edible, bar the stalk which oozes a milky-white latex (traditionally applied to warts). The leaves are great in salad when young; they become more bitter once the plant produces flowers. The root is both sweet and bitter, the sweetness comes from inulin, a polysaccharide prebiotic that feeds good gut bacteria. The root can be boiled, roasted or stir-fried as with other root vegetables, or made into dandelion coffee (See recipe below). The flowers can be added to salads, baked into cakes and biscuits or used to make a country wine.
It is the leaves of dandelion that earn the plant its colourful folk name of Pissybeds (a translation of the French Pis-en-lit), as they are an effective diuretic which also acts as a potassium supplement. While the leaves act on the kidneys, the root works on the liver and pancreas to encourage the production of bile and digestive enzymes and improving digestive motility. It can also be useful in detoxifying the body, improving skin issues and helping to maintain a good hormone balance. The flowers can be extracted in oil to make a sunshine yellow rub for sore and aching muscles.
Scrub your dandelion roots clean and chop into 1-2cm lengths. Place in an ovenproof dish and place in an oven pre-heated to Gas Mark 5 / 170C. Roast for approximately 25mins or until the roots caramelise and turn dark brown. Once cooled, the roots can be ground in a coffee grinder. The resulting powder can brewed in a cafetière to produce the dark, rich tasting brew of dandelion coffee. Delicious!