Taraxacum is a large genus of flowering plants in the family Asteraceae. They are native to Eurasia and North and South America, and two species, are found as weeds worldwide. Both species are edible in their entirety. The common name dandelion is given to members of the genus, and like other members of the Asteraceae family, they have very small flowers collected together into a composite flower head.
Each single flower in a head is called a floret. Many Taraxacum species produce seeds asexually by apomixis, where the seeds are produced without pollination, resulting in offspring that are genetically identical to the parent plant.
The flower head is surrounded by bracts (sometimes mistakenly called sepals) in two series. The inner bracts are erect until the seeds mature, then flex downward to allow the seeds to disperse; the outer bracts are always reflexed downward. Some species drop the "parachute" from the achenes; the hair-like parachutes are called pappus, and they are modified sepals. Between the pappus and the achene, there is a stalk called a beak, which elongates as the fruit matures. The beak breaks off from the achene quite easily, separating the seed from the parachute.
Dandelion herb is one of the most sought-after herbs to enliven our daily meals. Almost all the parts of the plant, leaves, flower tops, and root, are being used either for culinary purpose or as a curative remedy for certain medical conditions.
Herb-dandelion is believed to be originated in the Central Asian region and become naturalized in many parts of the temperate and semi-tropical regions, including Mediterranean. It is a very hardy plant, grows vigorously everywhere in the fields, lawns and meadows. It features long stout taproots from which long-jagged dark-green leaves rise directly from the ground surface in radiating fashion.
Golden yellow color flowers arise at the end of hollow-stalks in late spring to early autumn. Its hollow flower stalks are filled with sweet-scented nectar, attracting bees. Flower-stalks rise straight from the root.Fully-grown plant reaches about 45 cms in height. Almost all the plant parts exude milky navajo-white color latex from the inured site.
The root is a stout, fusiform, and fleshy, dark brown externally and white pulp inside somewhat appears like yam. It contains bitter milky latex; more concentrated than in stems and leaves. Roots are generally dug when the plant turns into second year of life. In general, roots are harvested in summer for medicinal purposes or autumn for drying and grinding for coffee.
Fresh dandelion greens, flower tops, and roots contain valuable constituents that are known to have anti-oxidant, disease preventing, and health promoting properties.
Fresh leaves are very low in calories; providing just 45 calories per 100 g. It is also good source of dietary fiber (provide about 9% of RDA per 100 g). In addition, its latex is a good laxative. These active principles in the herb help reduce weight and control cholesterol levels in the blood.
Dandelion root as well as other plant parts contains bitter crystalline compounds Taraxacin, and an acrid resin, Taraxacerin. Further, the root also contains inulin (not insulin) and levulin. Together, these compounds are responsible for various therapeutic properties of the herb.
Fresh dandelion herb provides 10161 IU of vitamin-A per 100 g, about 338% of daily-recommended intake, one of the highest source of vitamin-A among culinary herbs. Vitamin A is an important fat-soluble vitamin and anti-oxidant, required for maintaining healthy mucus membranes and skin and vision.
Its leaves are packed with numerous health benefiting flavonoids such as carotene-ß, carotene-a, lutein, crypto-xanthin and zea-xanthn. Consumption of natural foods rich in vitamin-A and flavonoids (carotenes) helps body protect from lung and oral cavity cancers. Zeaxanthin has photo-filtering functions and protects retina from UV rays.
The herb is good source of minerals like potassium, calcium, manganese, iron, and magnesium. Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids, which helps regulate heart rate and blood pressure. Iron is essential for red blood cell production. Manganese is used by the body as a co-factor for the antioxidant enzyme, superoxide dismutase.
It is also rich in many vital vitamins including folic acid, riboflavin, pyridoxine, niacin, vitamin -E and vitamin-C that are essential for optimum health. Vitamin-C is a powerful natural antioxidant. Dandelion greens provide 58% of daily-recommended levels of vitamin-C.
Dandelion is probably the richest herbal sources of vitamin K; provides about 650% of DRI. Vitamin-K has potential role in bone mass building by promoting osteotrophic activity in the bones. It also has established role in the treatment of Alzheimer's disease patients by limiting neuronal damage in the brain.
Dandelion herb contains notable nutrients and is a great source of nutrition during winter This humble backyard herb provides (%of RDA/100g)- 9% of dietary fiber, 19% of vitamin B-6 (pyridoxine), 20% of Riboflavin, 58% of vitamin C, 338% of vitamin A, 649% of vitamin K, 39% of iron and 19% of calcium. (Note: RDA-Recommended daily allowance)
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