Saturday, May 7, 2016

Grow Cultivated Dandelions

Cultivated dandelion in foreground in pot

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Dandelions are considered a weed and valiant foe of the pristine grass lawn in most U.S. lawns.  Dandelions are actually super nutritious and were brought over by the Puritan European settlers for food and medicine in the 1600’s.  By 1670, dandelions were everywhere in New England.

The earliest records of dandelions are traced back to Roman times.  Arabian physicians were using the plant for its medicinal qualities in the tenth and eleventh centuries.  Dandelion gets its name from the shape of it’s leaves, which in French is “dent de lion” which means lion’s tooth.

Dandelions are grown for their medicinal properties in the North America, China and Europe.  It is used most commonly for improving digestion, as a diuretic, to treat infections, and liver and bile support.  It can also have a mild laxative effect.  It is actually sold in Canada as a drug, mainly for its diuretic properties.

Dandelions are edible from root to flower.  The leaves are great in salads or steamed.  When temps rise and the leaves become more bitter, they can be blanched to make them sweeter.  Growing them in shade will also keep the bitterness down.  Flowers can be used in salads as well or fried.  The flowers are also used in making dandelion wine.  The root can be dried and used as a coffee substitute.  
Dandelions and corn salad in pot

The leaves are high is beta carotene, vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin K, and iron.  It has more iron and calcium than spinach.  Dandelion also contains a variety of flavonoids, terpenoids, triterpenes and sesquiterpenes.

You can buy cultivated dandelions that were bred for their large leaves and sweet taste from many seed companies.  I started with a cultivated Italian dandelion a few years back and it tastes great.  I have added several more varieties: Thick Leaved Improved, Nouvelle, Debelleville, Rugels and Vollherzigen.

More varieties that are available are:  French Dandelion a.k.a Vert de Montmagny,  Amélioré à Coeur Plein,  Pissenlit Coeur Plein Ameliore, Improved Broad Leaved, Clio, Catalogna Special, and Arlington dandelions.

To get the largest, sweetest leaves, grow cultivated dandelions like you would lettuce-in rich soil, partial shade, and keep the soil moist.  The newest leaves will be the least bitter and are great additions to salads.  The older leaves can be used in cooked dishes like steamed greens and dandelion fettuccine alfredo.

If you don’t want your dandelion spreading, be sure to pick off the flowers.  You can also wait for the flower to close and the seed to mature and pick right prior to them opening to have seed to place where you want more plants or to share with others.

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