Dandelion, Dog's tooth, Wild chicory - Taraxacum officinale

Dandelion, Dog's tooth, Wild chicory - Taraxacum officinale

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Dandelion is a very common plant: it is widespread throughout our peninsula, especially in sunny meadows and mountain pastures. It is one of the most sought after spontaneous for its innumerable uses: in the kitchen it becomes a particular ingredient to be included, raw, in salads. It can also be cooked together with other leafy vegetables, giving the whole a slightly bitter taste.
Herbalists consider roots and leaves to be very precious, especially to be included in herbal teas and infusions: they are in fact equipped with marked laxative and purifying virtues. Let's not forget also that its golden flower heads are among the most loved by bees: we find therefore honeys in which its nectar is prevalent and is however always present in those millefiori.
First name: Taraxacum officinale Weber.
Collection: Flowers in spring, other parts between May and September.
property: Tonic, laxative, diuretic, choleretic.
Family: Composite.
Common names: Wild chicory, barba du Signu, landar domestic, piumin, maccalume.
Habitat: It can be found along roadsides up to 200 meters high.


Parts used: Leaves, flowers and root.
Conservation: The fruits must be consumed fresh; the flowers are used fresh or dried in the shade and then stored in glass jars; the root dries instead in the sun once cut into thin layers and then preserved in cloth sacks.
Use: Internal use: Juice and decoction of leaves and roots; external use: application of fresh juice to fight warts.
Notes: Dandelion is rich in vitamin C, B and A, glucides, mineral salts and tannin. Thanks to these properties, it has always been considered used in the popular pharmacopoeia.

Descriptions and origins

The tarassacum officinale, commonly called dandelion, is one of the most common perennial herbaceous plants, spread from the plain up to 1600 meters. Its bright yellow flowers, produced from spring to mid-autumn, are among the most recognizable and evolve later in the particular "shower heads", much loved by children.
It grows up to 30-50 cm in height, including flower stems. It has medium brown colored taproots with small secondary rootlets. The basal leaves are serrated, arranged in a rosette, up to 20 cm long. They are of a nice medium green with the central rib well in evidence.
The flowers, typical of Asteraceae, are composed of ligules of a beautiful golden yellow and are carried by long stems with a round section from which a white liquid emerges. As time progresses, the fruits are produced, achenes, connected to a "pappus", an umbrella-shaped duvet that allows transport by the wind.

History and variety

The dandelion name has an uncertain etymology: some claim that it derives from the Greek and means "to heal"; others instead connect it to an Arabic word that means "chicory of the meadows".
This plant is harvested and consumed since ancient times; its intensive use began with the Arab influence, beginning in the tenth century. Until 1800 only spontaneous varieties were available; from that moment the seed cultivators have developed some very productive cultivars, suitable for cultivation in vegetable gardens for food and medicinal purposes. The most known are
- the "Vert de Montmagny improved" with very tender leaves. It produces abundantly and for a very long period
- the "Full Flower Enhancement": very compact and with full flower. The leaves bleach independently becoming tender and sweet.
- La "Very early improved": also with tender leaves, productive since April
- "Grandifolia" with large leaves, it grows up to 60 cm and goes to seed more slowly.


The cultivation of this herbaceous is very simple. We can make it grow in a corner of our garden, but it adapts to live even in medium-deep pots. An excellent alternative is to make it grow spontaneously in the lawn left to its natural appearance: the passages with the lawn mower must therefore be reduced to the bare minimum.
Family, genus, species: Asteraceae, taraxacum officinale
Type of plant: Cultivated perennial herbaceous grown as an annual or biennial
Height: 30 to 50 cm
Use: Vegetable garden, pot, natural lawn
Spacing between rows: 30 cm
Spacing in the row: 15 cm
Cultivation: Easy
Ground: Deep, well-worked, rich and fresh
irrigations: Frequent
Rusticitа: Very rustic
Exposure: Sun, half-shade
Propagation: Sowing

Exposure and terrain

It adapts to grow in many different conditions of exposure and climate. To have the best results, it is good to sow it in a sunny area, with a deep, fresh and rich in organic substance substrate. We prefer, if possible, slightly clayey soils.


Sowing can be carried out directly from the end of winter to the beginning of summer.
In the open field it will be necessary to start in the fall digging and turning the clods. It will be useful to spread plenty of manure or other soil conditioner. Between March and April we will refine the terrain and create rows of about 30 cm apart. We will place a pile of seeds every 15 cm, we will cover and water abundantly.
In the caissons we can instead spread the seed in a sieve and keep it moist until the first leaves are ticked: at that point we can thin out or gently peel them into individual containers.

Crop care

It is a very autonomous plant, but benefits from frequent watering. In the absence of precipitation, especially in the Center-South and on the coasts, it is good to water abundantly at least twice a week. The frequency must also be adjusted taking into account the texture of the soil: soils with a good percentage of sand or stony will dry more quickly and, consequently, the interventions will have to be intensified.
Ensuring a regular water supply is also important for procrastinating as much as possible the production of flower stems and seeds with consequent lower production of the leaves (the edible part).


Generally speaking, it does not fear pests; if grown in a shaded area it will instead be an easy prey for oidium. The only remedy is to eliminate all the leaves at root level and hope that they will grow back healthy.


Plants that are ripe for harvesting the leaves and roots are obtained about a year after sowing.
If we want to eat the raw dandelion in salad it is good to limit the harvest to the first spring months, with plants that are still young and tender. We collect all the rosette by inserting the knife in depth. Even the flowers can be used, thus adding a touch of color to our dishes.
If our purpose is instead of cooking we can proceed all year by taking the whole plant or cutting only parts of it.


The leaves of the dandelion perish quickly: they can be stored for a maximum of three days in the refrigerator, wrapped in a rag or in damp absorbent paper. For longer term storage we can opt for a quick blanching and portioned transfer to the freezer.
The buds can be collected and processed to obtain a product similar to capers.


Many do not like the intense bitter taste of dandelion leaves. To meet these needs, and to make this vegetable more tender, it must be bleached. This technique is also commonly used for other vegetables such as thistles, leeks, fennel, celery, chicory and various other types of salads.
During the vegetative period the most practical and safe method for the dandelion is to cover the plants with upside down pots, carefully obstructing all the holes so that the light does not enter. Alternatively, it is possible to tie very tight rosettes by covering them with newspaper or black plastic. The latter, however, in the event of rain or heavy humidity, could cause rotting.
At the arrival of autumn we extract the plants and let them dry for a few hours. We then eliminate all those that show traces of rot or are damaged by parasites. We eliminate all the internal leaves and then we put the tufts spaced, vertically, in the caissons and we cover with sand.

In the kitchen

When raw it goes well with other leafy vegetables; its bitter taste is good with fresh cheeses, eggs, poultry and fish.
The cooked leaves are ideal in pies and omelettes.
Closed buds should be washed gently and then dried. We can put them in vinegar (as an option all white vinegar or half white vinegar and half of apples) or salt (mixing and covering them with the same amount of coarse salt).
In the first case we will burn them in the liquid, to which we will have added a little salt. After draining them we will let them dry overnight; we will then place them in sterilized jars and cover them with oil. We will be able to consume them three weeks after closing.
Dandelion roots, harvested, roasted and powdered, are used as a coffee substitute, as is done with chicory.

Herbal uses

The dandelion finds innumerable uses in herbal medicine: it is in fact rich in vitamins and mineral salts.
In particular the leaves are an excellent source of vitamin A, but their supply of C, E and those of group B should not be underestimated. They can also boast an interesting quantity of mineral salts, in particular magnesium, calcium, phosphorus and potassium.
All parts are known for their toning, depurative and diuretic virtues.
Decoctions and herbal teas are great for activating kidney functions: we can prepare them ourselves by putting a handful of leaves and roots in a liter of water and letting it simmer for half an hour. The best results are obtained by drinking at least two cups a day.
Dandelion juice is a panacea for the skin: we whisk the leaves with a little yogurt and a tablespoon of almond oil. Apply to the skin and wait half an hour before rinsing thoroughly. We will have a toned, purified and rehydrated face.
Instead we avoid using the latex that comes out of the stems directly: it can cause skin allergies and redness.

Dandelion, Dog's tooth, Wild chicory - Taraxacum officinale: Dandelion honey

It is a honey with a creamy consistency, an intense yellow color, which crystallizes very easily. Its taste is sweet, very intense and persistent. In purity it is produced prevalently in the North of our peninsula, although very often it is found in a mixture with willow or other spring essences.
The calendar of the Dandelion
Soil preparation and fertilization: Autumn
sowing: March-June
Flowering: April-September
Leaves collection: March-November
Whole plant harvest: June-November
Buds collection: April May
Bleaching in the field: May-October
Bleaching in the cellar: October-November
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