Dandelions (Taraxacum officinale) are a common weed that are often overlooked or taken for granted. Yet they are so good for us!
Here I share 5 health benefits of eating (or drinking) dandelions. Plus tips on where to find them, as well as common mistakes with identifying dandelions and 4 simple ways to incorporate dandelions into your diet.
How important are dandelions?
5 Reasons to Eat (or Drink) Dandelions
- Ask anyone about eating a dandelion (Taraxacum officinale), and they might quote the dandelion's diuretic properties. It's French name being 'pissenlit' or 'wet the bed'. Though few people know that dandelions are a very mild diuretic, and diuretics tend to flush potassium out of the body. Though dandelions also contain potassium, thus replacing what is flushed out - that's good!
- The dandelion's latin name refers to its many health benefits, the Greek word taxaros meaning disorder and akos meaning remedy (2). Dandelions contain a wide range of vitamins and minerals, including vitamin A, some Bs, C, D and K.
- The 'dent de lion' (Lion's tooth) also contain significant amounts of calcium, magnesium, iron and folate.
- Dandelions can have a mild detoxing action as bitters benefit the liver.
- Dandelions can stimulate digestion and improve gut bacteria (through the presence of inulin).
Where to find Dandelions
Isn't it just the way; when you want to find dandelions, there just don't seem to be any, anywhere. So here are some tips. In general, they like to grow on various grassy areas, parks and wild mountainous ranges, but below is some more specific information.
In the UK there are two most common types of dandelions and about 250 types in all, though some are quite rare and others quite distinct from each other. The two most common are;
Ruderalia (121 species) type of dandelions grow well on grassy areas, meadows, waysides and waste places. Erythrosperma (30 species) are more slender and thrive in warm, dry and sunny spots such as chalk grassland, heaths and dunes.
How to correctly identify dandelions
As you can see from the images above, the shape of dandelion leaves can vary depending on the variety. However, they all have a toothed edge AND a hollow stem that created a milky sap when snapped. The stems are not branched, nor solid. That is how to make sure you've found dandelions and not one of its common cousins.
4 simple ways to incorporate dandelions into your diet
- Dandelions are bitter, so if you're cooking them it is good to cook them separately in a little water for 2-3 minutes, then drain them and add them into whatever you're cooking. Start with small amounts - think a teaspoon rather than 50 g.
- Chop finely and sprinkle as a garnish. Again, think small amounts.
- Pour boiling water on a couple of chopped leaves and leave to infuse for 5 minutes and drink as a tea (sweeten if needed).
- Add leaves into salad and mix with other leaves and serve with a honey or mustard dressing.