Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)is usually thought of as a weed but all parts of the plant are useful. The leaves are diuretic and so in the past the plant has been called 'wet-a-bed'.
The flowers attract bees and other good insects to benefit nearby plants.
Children love to play with the 'fairy clock' of the dandelion when the flowers have finished. There are several childhood games and songs based on the blowing of the seeds.
The word dandelion comes from the French, dent-de-lion, meaning lion's tooth, referring to the shape of the leaves.
During the second World War, dandelion roots were washed, dried, ground and used as a coffee substitute. This non-caffeinated drink is still served in health food stores.
Dandelions contain potassium and calcium salts, sulphur, sodium, vitamins A, B, C, and D and are better for you than spinach. The young leaves can be eaten raw in salads, or cooked with or instead of spinach.
Dandelion leaves can be added to potato salad and salad dressings. They can be introduced into your cuisine little by little until you are accustomed to the taste.
You can drink dandelion tea. It's diuretic properties make it useful in treatment of diseases of the kidney, liver, gall bladder and urinary tract. Some conditions dandelion tea has been used for are jaundice, hepatitis, cirrhosis, gallstones, rheumatism, gout and fluid retention.
It stimulates the appetite and aids digestion.
The juice, or milk, of the dandelion is rumoured to cure warts when applied to the surface of the wart.