In Chippewa, dado’cabodji’bik meaning dadocabo (liquid or milk) odjibik (root), common dandelion is a popular edible and medicinal herb. Dandelion is easily identifiable and is often the gateway plant to exploring foraging and herbal medicine.
Dandelion’s folk names include but are not limited to blowball, lion’s tooth (leaf appearance), priest’s crown, milk witch, and wild endive. Medicinal folk names include piss-a-bed (diuretic effect) and canker-wort. Among many folk magic uses an infusion of dandelion is said to promote psychic powers.
Edible Uses of Common Dandelion
The most obvious way to eat dandelion is as a nutritious leafy green addition to a raw salad. You’ve probably had it in salad mixes from the grocery store. The leaves are the least bitter before the plant is flowering.
My favorite way to eat dandelions is to batter them in pancake mix and fry them up. That potent taste you might remember from childhood (um, anyone pop one in their mouth as a kid, or is it just me?) is moderated a lot by cooking the flowers.
Here’s a list of edible ideas:
- Dandelion wine (flowers)
- Dandelion jelly (flowers)
- Salad greens
- Fritters (battered flowers)
- Used like carrots in stews et al or for pickling (tender roots)
- Coffee substitute that tastes nothing like coffee (dried, powdered roots, harvested late fall; oft combined with roasted acorn and roasted rye in equal pts)
- Tea (combines well with chicory or burdock root)
Rich in Vitamins A, B, C, Riboflavin
Medicinal Uses of Common Dandelion
Dandelion is primarily said to support these body systems:
Medicinal tags include
Common usage includes the rhizome and roots as a bitter tonic and mild laxative. I often use the roots for tea or add a tincture of dandelion root to my coffee to support my liver. You could put some on your breakfast, try a little bit ah Gris-Gris Gumbo Ya Ya.
Alternative Uses of the “Milk Witch”
It’s a helpful addition to compost. Here’s an article on using herbs incl. dandelion in compost @http://www.pennywoodward.com.au/compost-with-a-dash-of-herbs/.
The flower can be used to produce a yellow dye and the roots make a magenta dye.
In the off chance your yard isn’t already filled with them – they’re easy to grow! The seeds can be sown directly in the fall for early-spring greens, or about 6 weeks before the last frost in Spring. Another option is winter sowing. While they’ll grow in poor soil, moist and rich alkaline soil is favored, with full sun. They also do well in raised beds and containers. Since dandelions aren’t native here, growing them same as lettuce is probably the best option. The wild real estate in your lawn can go to planting native plants, the real power house action for bees!
Despite the online buzz about dandelions being for the bees, they are a low quality and finicky nutrition source for them here. Willows and red maples are our first spring nectar sources for bees, followed quickly by many native spring flowers. It’s an easy step from leaving the dandelions to joining a native plant gardening group – then you’ll be making huge strides for local pollinators.
There are a handful of native dandelions you can browse on iNat – the ones without the pink IN/Introduced label. Rare finds, with lots of hybridization!
It’s a diuretic.
Some people are allergic to the milky latex of dandelion.
And the Usual Cautions:
1) Most medicinal herbs, if edible, are meant to be eaten in moderation, even sparingly. Some require extra preparation.
2) People can be allergic or sensitive to nearly any plant; try new herbs one at a time at your own risk.
3) For medicinal use, I must recommend receiving a diagnosis and working with a reputed health care provider. I generally do not post specific treatments and dosages because I think that is best between you and your health care provider, and ideally monitored. Herbalists do not have an official certification yet, but that may be in the works.
4) Anyone pregnant, nursing, or taking prescription drugs should talk to a health care professional before adding new food items to their diet.
5) Many plants have look-a-likes, and sometimes they are poisonous.