Dandelions are traditionally a well-know bane of most gardeners, their deep roots make them a tough weed to eliminate from any plot. To ensure they do not return the entire root must be taken out. This is perhaps best done in the autumn if they are to be used, as this is when the plant will begin to store it’s nutrients ready for its growth in spring. The name dandelion comes from the French dent de lion or lions tooth which refers to the tooth like shape of the petals.
Herbalists have used it for centuries and if seen as a crop rather than a pest can become enjoyable or at least a little less frustrating to dig up. Culpeper, the 17 th century herbalist writes of its medical properties, ‘It has an opening and cleansing property and, therefore, very effectual for removing obstructions of the liver, gall bladder and spleen and diseases arising from them such as jaundice’. Indeed modern herbalists still use the plant with the root being the most active part of the plant. It contains, amongst other things, a high content of vitamin A, some of the B vitamins and the leaves contain vitamin C. It has strong diuretic properties, which are perhaps best characterised by its vulgar name, ‘wet-the-Bed’.
The flowers (when still yellow) can be boiled with sugar, or honey to make a cough or throat medicine.
After a thorough wash the roots can be dried out either by wrapping in newspaper and placing somewhere with a steady flow of air, (this is essential as if left elsewhere the can grow mould as I found to my cost) or in the sun or even with a hairdryer. Whether or not to dry them completely is debatable some recipes insist on it and others claim they only need to be patted dry before roasting. Once dried it can be ground and used like coffee. Which is said to have anti-carcinogenic properties due to its high level of anti-oxidants. It can also be used in beer and way widely used instead of hops in the 17th century.
The leaves can be added to soups and stews as an extra vegetable or cooked with spinach and/or young nettles or nettle tops. Young leaves can be added to salads, although I have found this to be quite bitter.