Dandelion

Dandelions (Taraxacum spp.) are quotidian and culturally misunderstood features of modern society. Having felt both these ways at times in my life (as imagine many people also have), I became curious about them. I had friends who taught me about the healing power of the roots and the edibility of the foliage. When I lived in New York City for graduate school I recall finding one growing out of a metal signpost of a busy traffic interchange; it was actually thriving there. That kind of became my totem when I lived in New York. I took a picture of the dandelion but I don’t really need to look at that picture to recall this plant, so strong and thriving in the unlikeliest of places.

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One of the times I left school I helped my friend dig out the fall roots out of her back yard. We cleaned them meticulously with a toothbrush and we hung them upside down to dry on a clothesline; she left the foliage on, which she said aided in the medicinal potency of the plant roots.

A couple years later I was thumbing through the pages of James Green’s The Male Herbal. One of his central hypotheses as an herbalist concerns the expurgation of the bitter flavor – so prevalent in plants such as dandelion – from Western diets has wreaked havoc upon reproductive organ and immune systems:

The mistake of eliminating the bitter flavor from our daily experience is as harmony disrupting as eliminating one of the colors from the light spectrum… It’s my opinion that the habit developed throughout our lifetime of avoiding bitter-flavored foods and herbs has created a chronic dysfunction in our lives and organs of digestion, assimilation, and excretion, eliciting secondary hormone imbalances (32).

We’ve grown the true or common dandelion (Taraxacum officinale; not to be confused with Cichorium intybus, “Italian” dandelion, or chicory) on Mano Farm since early in our tenure here. Perhaps naturally I became curious if there were other varieties and we’ve since discovered two: Rubber Dandelion (Taraxacum kok-saghyz) and White Dandelion (Taraxacum albidum). From stock plants it took a number of years to produce enough seed to offer through our catalog. With no exaggeration or marketing hype intended, available quantities of these latter two varieties will be extremely limited throughout most of 2014. I guess that makes these rare dandelions.

-Quin, November 2013

Russian Dandelion/Kazakh Dandelion/Rubber Root (Taraxacum kok-saghyz)
Russian Dandelion/Kazakh Dandelion/Rubber Root (Taraxacum kok-saghyz)Packet: ~50 seeds (0.025 gram) More info543 available
Another rare dandelion that we‰ۡó»ve taken under our wing. Rubber Root, alternately known as Russian or Kazakh Dandelion (Taraxacum kok-saghyz) is a perennial dandelion with origins in the Kazakhstan / Uzbekistan regions. The plants are generally smaller than Taraxacum officinale and Taraxacum albidum (two other varieties we offer in our catalog), the leaves a thicker and a paler green, but their graceful yellow flowers are still recognizably dandelion. This dandelion species has a dark cultural history that dates back to Stalinist Soviet Russia, where scientists first discovered the latex content contained in the plant roots could be used to produce natural rubber. Contemporary plant breeders have rediscovered the plant with the ultimate aim of breeding improved plants that can provide a commercially viable alternative to both natural (most commonly produced from Hevea brasiliensis or rubber tree) and synthetic rubbers. Today, Ford Motor Company and Ohio State University are presently conducting joint research with the aim of commercializing it to replace synthetic car parts such as cupholders and interior trim. Researchers in Europe have already produced prototype dandelion car tires. We offer Taraxacum kok-saghyz seeds to our customers primarily as dandelion enthusiasts who understand that dandelions play an important ecological on diversified small scale farms like ours. We have grown plants here for the past three years in our Mediterranean climate, starting them in seedling cells and growing them out their first few true leaves prior to transplanting. We‰ۡó»ve found Taraxacum kok-saghyz grows well here if sown in the mid-winter for an early spring transplanting. We‰ۡó»ve planted them in the mid summer, and while they survived, it seemed like the plants generally weren‰ۡó»t as vital. 60 days to flower from transplant. Perennial. Grown at Mano Farm in Ojai, California. Sources OARDC, Ford Partner to Test Russian Dandelion Rubber for Car Parts: May 25, 2011 Car tyres made from dandelions: December 12, 2012.
$4.95
True (Common/Wild) Dandelion
True (Common/Wild) DandelionPacket: ~50 seeds (0.03 gram) More info5374 available
True (or common) dandelion (Taraxacum officinale), woefully maligned by lawn care enthusiasts and widely understood as an invasive weed, is actually an outstanding human plant ally. Dandelion's leaves are edible and rich in vitamins (A, C, D, and B) and minerals (iron, magnesium, zinc, potassium, manganese, copper, choline, calcium, boron, and silicon). They are a digestive bitter and a potent diuretic replacing the potassium lost during urination. Externally, the mashed fresh leaves or root can be used alone or with other herbs (such as plantain, comfrey, mallow, yarrow) can be used as a poultice, bringing gentle relief and healing action to minor abrasions and insect bites. Finally, the flowers can be used to make wine. 90 days to leaf. 150 days - 2nd year for root harvest. Perennial. >Seeds grown at Mano Farm in Ojai, California. All of our seed varieties are certified organic by Oregon Tilth.
$3.75
White Dandelion (Taraxacum albidum)
White Dandelion (Taraxacum albidum)Packet: ~50 seeds (0.05 gram) More info640 available
This dandelion species (Taraxacum albidium) is native to Southern Japan, and resembles the "Common" dandelion feature-for-feature save for the creamy white blossom where in place of the yellow one. These flowers are incredibly gorgeous, and I admit part of that beauty is likely due to their relative obscurity in this part of the world. Many mornings on the farm I would pass by a blossoming stand and feel grateful for their presence. It has taken us a number of years to grow enough seed to offer in our catalog, but we've finally got enough to offer a limited quantity of packets for our customers. A must-have for the dandelion geek, but also imminently practical. We harvested the greens for Mano Farm's community agriculture shares and at the end of the season dried the remaining foliage to use for tea. The roots, of course, are where the real medicine is at. Flavor and taste (bitter! ) seems indistinguishable from Taraxacum officinale. Grown at Mano Farm in Ojai, California. -Quin
$3.75