Taraxacum officinale, the common dandelion (often simply called "dandelion"), is a flowering herbaceous perennial plant of the family Asteraceae (Compositae).
It can be found growing in temperate regions of the world, in lawns, on roadsides, on disturbed banks and shores of water ways, and other areas with moist soils.
Dandelions are harvested from the wild or grown on a small scale as a leaf vegetable. The leaves (called dandelion greens) can be eaten cooked or raw in various forms, such as in soup or salad. They are probably closest in character to mustard greens. Usually the young leaves and unopened buds are eaten raw in salads, while older leaves are cooked. Raw leaves have a slightly bitter taste. Dandelion salad is often accompanied with hard-boiled eggs. The leaves are high in beta-carotene, vitamin C and iron, carrying more iron and calcium than spinach.
Dandelion flowers can be used to make dandelion wine, for which there are many recipes. Most of these are more accurately described as "dandelion-flavored wine," as some other sort of fermented juice or extract serves as the main ingredient.
Another recipe using the plant is dandelion flower jam. In Silesia and other parts of Poland and the world, dandelion flowers are used to make a honey substitute syrup with added lemon (so-called May-honey). Ground roasted dandelion root can be used as a non-caffeinated coffee substitute.
Historically dandelion was prized for a variety of medicinal properties. It contains a wide number of pharmacologically active compounds.
Dandelion contains flavonoids including luteolin, apigenin, isoquercitrin (a quercetin-like compound), caffeic acid, and chlorogenic acid. Dandelion also contains terpenoids, triterpenes, and sesquiterpenes. Dandelion has been used as an herbal remedy in Europe, North America, and China.
Dandelion has been used in herbal medicine in an attempt to treat infections, bile and liver problems, and as a diuretic. Dandelion is used in herbal medicine as a mild laxative, for increasing appetite, and as a plant bitter for improving digestion. The milky latex has been used as a mosquito repellent and as a folk remedy to treat warts.
The plants are adaptable to most soils and the seeds are not dependent on cold temperatures before they will germinate but they need to be within the top 2.5 cm (1 in) of soil.