Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale Web.)
Dandelion is the common name of Taraxacum officinale Web. It is a perennial plant, whose height varies from 5 to 50 cm, and is characterized by stems filled with milky juice, yellow flowers gathered in large flower heads, and a taproot. After blooming and fruit dispersal, it resembles a monk’s skull, which is the reason for its Polish name (“little monk”). It is commonly found in Poland, growing on roadsides and meadows, where it is regarded as a troublesome weed. Its leaves and roots have long been used in herbal medicine. A decoction of roots and chopped herbs drunk as a tea has cholepoietic properties and it is also used to treat skin diseases and colds.
Currently, dandelion varieties are grown in Western Europe and North America, where its young leaves are used in salads or soups. Young dandelion flower heads are cooked like capers, and open flower heads are used to make wine. The roots – similar to chicory roots – may be used in the production of coffee substitutes.
Dandelion roots contain the carbohydrate of inulin (up to 40%), as well as choline, phytosterols, and triterpenes. Inulin is now regarded as one of the most popular dietary products replacing sugar and fat in foods. Choline is a component of some phospholipids, in particular lecithin. It is considered a quasi-vitamine (it was formerly known as vitamin B4) due to its significant biological importance.
Phytosterols fulfil a similar function in plant cell membranes to that which is fulfilled by cholesterol in animal cell membranes. Phytosterols as antioxidants prevent oxidative processes occurring in fats. The health-promoting effect of phytosterols as product ingredients manifests itself in lowering the blood cholesterol level by reducing its absorption in the gastrointestinal tract.
Triterpenes have been extensively uses in pharmacology as they exhibit anti-inflammatory, anti-tumor and antiviral properties. This group includes, among others, sesquiterpene lactones, substances characterized by a strong bitter taste. Sesquiterpene lactones increase secretion of bile and pancreatic juice.
Dandelion roots are worth consuming mainly because of the inulin they contain, which has hypoglycemic properties (recommended for diabetics) and hipocholesterinemic properties (recommended for people with elevated levels of LDL-cholesterol and triglycerides), as well as biologically active compounds – phytosterols and triterpenes.
Grana offers cereal grain beverages with dandelion – Barleycup with Dandelion, more information at: www.barleycup.co.uk. They are perfect caffeine free drinks – coffee alternatives
Cultivation of dandelion
Dandelion is a popular plant that grows in the wild almost anywhere in the world. It may also be cultivated to obtain roots for the food industry. Roasted dandelion roots are used, for example, to manufacture soluble beverages popularly drunk as coffee substitutes. Dandelion leaves and flowers are also used in herbal medicine.
Dandelion used by Grana comes from nature, mainly from the Warmia and Masuria region. The parts that grow above the ground are harvested in early spring while still in a bud, whereas the roots are reaped in the autumn. Dandelions growing in the wild are collected manually, while machines are used in the harvest of other crops. At first, a picker cleans the dandelion roots manually, but in case of industrial cultivation, the process is performed by machines. The flowers are dried in a warm, dark and airy place. As the roots take longer to dry, they are dried in drying rooms at a temperature of 50 degrees Celsius. The properly dried parts preserve their original colour.