The dandelion is best known -- and feared -- by gardeners as a remarkably persistent lawn weed, but its leaves are actually high in vitamin A and four times higher in vitamin C than lettuce. It's also versatile: Dandelion leaves are used raw in salads or boiled like spinach. The roots can be roasted and made into a coffee-like drink.
The dandelion is a hardy perennial that is grown as an annual for its foliage and as a biennial for its roots. The jagged green leaves grow in a short rosette attached by a short stem to a long taproot. Bright yellow flowers 1 to 2 inches wide grow on smooth, hollow stalks.
Common Name: Dandelion
Scientific Name: Taraxacum officinale
Hardiness: Hardy (may survive first frost)
In the next section, we'll show you how to grow dandelion.
Think about dandelion as more than just a weed, and you'll be pleasantly surprised. The leaves of the dandelion plant are delicious and rich in nutrients, and even the roots of the dandelion plant can be roasted and made into a drink.
Dandelions are very hardy and can survive the hottest summers and the coldest winters. Plant the seeds in early spring, four to six weeks before the average date of last frost. Dandelions grow best in well-drained, fertile soil but do well in any soil anywhere. If you're growing dandelions for their foliage only, they'll tolerate soil in poorer physical condition. They prefer full sun but will do fine in partial shade. Plant seeds directly in the garden 1/4 inch deep in single rows or wide rows. Thin seedlings to 8 inches apart when they have produced their first true leaves.
Harvest dandelion greens at your pleasure throughout the growing season. Harvest the roots in the fall of the second year. Pull the whole root from the ground or lift the roots with a fork to avoid breaking them.
The two most common varieties are Montmagny and Improved Thick-leaved.