The first thing to know about Dandelions is that you can’t identify them to species. You can make a stab at it, most of the Dandelions that are going to be in this post are probably Taraxacum officinale, the Common Dandelion but I cannot be sure of that, it is just the most likely species.
There are about 250 different species and the differences are very small. It is a job for an expert. If you really needed a positive identification you would have to find an expert and I would guess supply him with plant material, the whole plant, leaves and roots included, you wouldn’t get it from a photograph.
Once you knew what it was you wouldn’t have it any more and the next one you see may well be something else so that would be pretty useless information.. So they are Taraxacum species or just Dandelions and there is nothing wrong with that.
I like flowers that double as children’s toys, Daisies in chains, Sticky Willy on somebody’s back or Dandelion clocks.
I used to think of them as a solitary little weed that I would see on a roadside verge and that was about all that I thought about them until I came to live on a farm and saw the way that they fill the meadows and pasture in April and now I will look forward to them every year.
I like to add flowers to salads, well you know what they say, the first taste is with the eyes. The dandelion flower is completely edible but the sepals are bitter so just use the yellow parts. You can create nice effects with lots of individual yellow florets on a dark green leaf. You can add them to anything, decorate a bowl of soup or a pile of mashed potato. I know lots of wild flowers that are good to eat and beautiful but I don’t know any supermarket where you can go and buy a packet of eating flowers anyway they are best picked fresh.
Young leaves are good in salads mixed with other leaves. Older leaves are best cooked, you could steam them. I fry them and add them to omelettes as I would spinach.
Insects like Dandelions.
Two other good reasons for having them in your garden: They have a very deep tap root that draws nutrients up from the soil and makes them available to other plants and you might get hungry while gardening.
They are a member of the daisy family (Asteraceae) which means they are composite flowers. A Daisy is not a single flower, the yellow centre is actually made up of lots of little yellow flowers called disc florets and the “petals” are each little white flowers called ray florets. A Dandelion doesn’t have any disc florets just lots of little “rays” of sunshine.
There is some truth in the belief that touching one will make you wet the bed, they have long been used in medicine as a diuretic. A glass of wine with your dinner will have a similar effect, or orange juice and you shouldn’t let that put you off.
The name Dandelion comes from the French dent de lion meaning Lion’s tooth from the jagged shape of the leaf but more commonly in France it is known as Pissenlit and I will just tell you that “lit” is the French word for bed. The Germans call it Pusteblume meaning “Blowing Flower.”