Dandelion, Taraxacum officinale
Dandelion is an extremely nutritious, wild superfood, with higher levels of iron, riboflavin, and vitamin E than the greens bought from the supermarket. If it's not growing in your lawn, then it's probably in your neighbour's backyard, so this is an easily accessible health food!
Dandelion grows everywhere, you've probably seen it many times in your neighborhood & will recognise the fluffy seeds heads which you blow into the wind when you make a wish. Dandelion grows abundantly in many countries, so whether you're in NZ, Europe or the Americas, you can find it.
You can eat every part of Dandelion, Flowers, Buds, Leaves & Roots. You can make coffee from the roots, infuse them in vinegar, or add them to stews. You can slice the leaves fine & eat raw, or cook like spinach. You can eat the buds fresh or deepfry. The flowers taste sweet & make a beautiful garnish. What's not to like about it!!?
Well, for some of you, maybe the fact it's so bitter. But it's actually the bitter properties that give Dandelion it's amazing medicinal qualities. Bitter foods are really really good for us, stimulating our appetite, our mouths to produce saliva and our guts to produce bile to digest our food. Dandelion is excellent at aiding the whole digestive system. Dandelion is also a very effective diuretic, nicknamed 'pissenlit' in French meaning to piss the bed, don't be drinking too much of this before bedtime!
Dandelion Roots are another inulin producing root. Inulin is a natural prebiotic & I like to infuse my roots in Raw Apple Cider Vinegar allowing the inulin to seep out into the vinegar.
To distinguish Dandelion from the many many lookalikes, look for leaves growing in a basal rosette: leaves radiating out from the stems close to the ground. If you have leaves popping out of the stems, it's not a Dandelion. Flowers grow singly on tall, hollow stems. So if you have multiple flowers per stem, or branching stems, it's not a Dandelion. The base of the leaves often turn a reddish purplish speckled color & are highly toothed. The 'teeth' always point downwards, not upwards. The leaf is bright green & shiny, not hairy.
Many Kiwis confuse with Dandelion is Puha which are totally different plants, however they share many similiar nutritional & medicinal properties.