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Dandelions - Taraxacum officinale - Perennial

Dandelions are native to the temperate zones of all continents. However, most of the Taraxacum species are indigenous to Eurasia; two are indigenous to America.

Dandelions are hardy perennials whose leaves are gathered as pot herbs or greens. Young leaves are eaten in salads, boiled, steamed, sauteed, fried, braised, etc. The roots are eaten raw, or cooked and served like salsify. Dandelion wine is made from the flowers. Dandelion may be cultivated in the home garden when wild plants are not available.


Varieties

Broad Leaved - (Thick-Leaved or Cabbage-Leaved) 95 days to harvest. Large, broad, dark-green leaves; more deeply lobed along the axis of the leaf than those of the wild dandelion; thick and tender. In rich soil, each plant spreads 18 - 24 inches across.


Planting

Dandelion requires a long growing season and develops best at low temperatures. Sow seeds 1/4 to 1/2 inch deep in May to early summer and thin seedlings to 8 to 12 inches apart in the row. The plants form a rosette of leaves and overwinter in the garden. They will grow in any well-drained garden soil. A polyethylene tunnel can be placed over the row to force growth for late winter or early spring cutting.

Dandelions can be grown in the garden and should be treated similar to lettuce. If grown for a fall crop it should be planted in mid-summer. Dandelion is a perennial and can become a problem in gardens if allowed to grow unchecked.


Harvesting

Harvest in the fall when plants are of satisfactory size. Cut just below the crown with a sharp knife so that the leaves remain attached. Unharvested plants may be left for use in the following spring. Harvest in early spring before the plants form flower stalks and go to seed. If flowering occurs, the greens will become bitter and of poor quality. Some gardeners blanch the inner rosette of leaves by tying the outer leaves together over the plant. Blanching makes the leaves milder and less bitter.

Dandelion is extremely high in iron and vitamin A. The young tender leaves fresh from the garden are used in salads or served with vinegar, and crumbled bacon.


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This page was last updated on November 16, 2002