The dandelion or dandelion is a spontaneous herb widespread throughout the Italian territory, it is found everywhere in nature: fields, roadsides, pastures up to 2000 meters above sea level. 60 distinct species belong to the genus taraxacum, and every spring you will certainly have noticed the characteristic yellow flowers in the meadows, and later the ball-shaped “heads” that spread the seeds of this extraordinary weed.
What not everyone knows is that the dandelion is one edible plant, both as a country salad and using the bud. Its diffusion in the various Italian places has determined several popular names, the dandelion is also called "Pisacane", "soffione", "yellow star" or "capo di frate", "crazy salad" or "wild chicory".
It is a perennial herb of the family of composite which emits large yellow flowers with a "head", then when fruitful it evolves into the so-called shower head: where very light achenes are supported by a central pappus. The shower head is a shape designed so that the seeds can spread all around in flight, at the expense of allergies.
Sow the dandelion in the vegetable garden
The presence of dandelions is often spontaneous in uncultivated meadows, so it is not always necessary to cultivate this plant: those who live in areas that still have greenery can usually limit themselves to picking it by taking a walk through the meadows in spring. The bright yellow color makes it easy to spot dandelions even from a distance. Those who live in more urbanized areas, however, may have difficulty finding this spontaneous flower and therefore it is better to sow it in the vegetable garden, it is one of the simplest crops possible.
How to sow. The sowing of dandelions can take place in seedbeds from March to May, or between the end of April and June directly planted in the open ground. The distance between the dandelion seedlings must be between 15 and 20 cm, usually the seeds are put much closer together and then thin out, the young seedlings that are removed can be eaten in salads.
Cultivation of the dandelion
There is not much to say about the cultivation of dandelions in the vegetable garden, since like all weeds and wild herbs it is extremely easy to have it in your garden. It is a plant that is not very sensitive to diseases and parasites, it can be attacked by powdery mildew but, having a very short cycle, even the white sore rarely creates problems.
Useful properties in the synergistic garden: The characteristic yellow flower of the dandelion is very abundant in nectar and therefore attracts bees and other pollinating insects, a characteristic that can be valuable and that makes the dandelion an excellent neighbor for many garden plants. Even those who do not want to cultivate this flower should leave a presence in the borders, provided they are not allergic to the volatile seed of its puffballs. The dandelion is also very useful in the organic garden move the ground in a natural way, its root is in fact deep and taproot.
Weeding: for a productive crop it is required to control the weeds with periodic weeding and to water the plants regularly, in particular when the dandelion seedlings are just formed and therefore not yet deeply rooted.
Forcing and bleaching: it is possible with a heap of earth to get the dandelion bleached, to have a particular salad. While you want to have this plant as a Christmas salad, you can do a forcing operation by uprooting the plants in November to transplant them into earth boxes to be kept in the dark. In this way, you can have a fresh salad out of season.
Collect and cook leaves and flowers
The taste of leaves of dandelion is very bitter, if you pick them young they are tender and can be eaten fresh in salads, otherwise they must be cooked by boiling them. In addition to the leaves, the flower buds and roots of this plant can also be found.
THE buds of Pisacane can be preserved in oil, in vinegar or in salt, with a curiously similar result to capers, while the root taproot is eaten raw, after peeling and thinly slicing it, but it has a very bitter taste that many do not like.
Collection period and methods
The dandelion is harvested in different ways and periods, depending on the type of use:
- Leaves to be harvested to be eaten as salads, they must be taken young, usually in spring, preferably before the moment of flowering. They can be cut at the collar.
- The leaves to be cooked they can be harvested during the whole useful life of the dandelion, avoiding however the older ones, which will be leathery and very bitter.
- The flowers they are picked when they appear, usually between April and May, they are always edible but it is ideal to take the buds not yet open, which are the ones useful to pickle.
- The roots they must be harvested at the end of the season, with the arrival of autumn, when they have become more swollen. They come best in sandy soils and obviously to harvest it is necessary to remove the whole plant.
Properties of dandelion
Pisacane leaves have diuretic powers, so much so that the dandelion has earned the popular name of "piscialetto", it can therefore be very useful for those who have difficulties in this sense. Besides this it concerns a plant with purifying powers, particularly in the rhizome: the bitter roots of dandelions are healthy although they can be unsightly. Dandelion appears to be good for the liver and bile. Contains several beneficial substances, such as inulin, useful for the intestine, calcium, provitamin A.