Dandelions are perennial, so in theory, they can produce over a very long time. Preventing the flowers from going to seed is essential for obvious reasons — uncontrolled growth can result in them spreading as noxious weeds. For the best leaves, grow in rich, fertile soil with good drainage. A well cultivated dandelion plant is actually quite luxurious and attractive.
Sow short rows every two weeks for a constant supply. Be careful not to plant more than you can use, as the flowers need to be controlled. Press seeds lightly into the soil’s surface and keep the seeded area moist until germination. Do not bury the seeds, as light helps to break dormancy. Thin seedlings to 15cm (6″) apart for full sized crowns. If you intend to harvest as baby greens, they can be planted 5cm (3″) apart.
It may seem counter-intuitive for a gardener to actually plant what must be the world’s commonest weed. But dandelions have lots of culinary potential, they feed pollinators, and they cultivate the soil with their long taproots.
The youngest leaves have the mildest flavour and tender texture. Mature leaves need to be blanched or stir-fried. Bitterness in the leaves can be reduced by growing them in partial shade, or by placing a plastic or cardboard disc over the rosettes for a week prior to harvest. This is how some growers harvest endive, a close relative of the dandelion. For beer and wine making, harvest the flowers as soon as they open. Pull up whole plants at the end of the season and dry their roots for use as tea or dye.
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Most people know dandelions grow readily, though very few have tried to intentionally grow and care for them. Caring for the flowers is fairly easy. They will grow in a variety of favorable (and unfavorable) conditions, making them a sure-fire crop for novice and experienced gardeners alike
Dandelions can be sown outdoors four to six weeks before the last spring frost. Sow seed directly into the ground—once they’ve sprouted above the soil, thin them so they’re 6 to 8 inches apart. Dandelions readily reseed themselves, but often in places where you’d rather they didn’t grow. Be sure to clear them from your garden before they bolt to seed if you’d like to avoid this issue.
A few weeks before harvesting your dandelion’s leaves, cover the plants with dark, opaque fabric to block out most of the light—this will blanch the leaves, reducing the plant’s bitterness. The youngest leaves are the least bitter and most flavorful, and tender leaves can be picked throughout the growing season.
If there’s one thing dandelions aren’t particular about, it’s their soil mixture. Whether your garden boasts soil that is sandy, loamy, rich, or clay-like, dandelions will find a way to thrive. However, if you’re hoping to grow plants that are nutritious and hearty, you’ll want a mixture that is rich in nitrogen.
If you are harvesting the blossoms from your dandelions, pick the flowers when they are still bright yellow and young. Use them fresh, making sure to remove all of the stems. To prevent the flowers from closing after cutting, place them in a bowl of cold water, taking them out just before eating or serving them.
Most people regard the dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) as an invasive weed that takes over lawns and flower beds every spring. While in many cases this is true, growing dandelions on purpose as a food crop has a long history. Dandelion greens are high in Vitamins A, K and C and also contain a significant amount of fiber and iron. Dandelions can make a valuable addition to the home herb or vegetable garden, and they can be grown outdoors in Sunset’s Climate Zones 1 through 24 following many of the same principles as garden lettuce.
Water your dandelion seeds lightly, keeping the top inch of soil moist but not wet. Dandelions grow quickly when well-watered, so it is best to control the amount of water your dandelions get so they do not grow out of control.
Prepare the Soil
Harvest your dandelion leaves in the late summer or fall by cutting the leaves off just below the crown with a sharp knife. The leaves should be harvested when they are less than 10 inches long before the plant flowers, or they will become bitter in taste.
Dandelion greens have a bitter flavor and can be eaten raw in salads or cooked. The roots of the plant can be roasted and flowers may be pressed for wine.
Compost or all-purpose vegetable fertilizer