For an overlooked and dismissed species, Dandelion is an interesting plant. It is a hardy, edible, medicinal tap-rooted indicator species that’s adept at growing almost anywhere, especially in disturbed soil. What we think of as its single flower, the dandelion head, is actually comprised of hundreds of flowers (called florets). The puffball incarnation of them is iconically fun, but also indubitably reviled by gardeners and farmers because it represents the impending arrival of hundreds of seeds of this difficult-to-weed species. The inclination to protect land-space and soil-nutrients in favor of their crops or flowers often results in extensive use of pesticides, which are usually detrimental to the macrobiome (a term which refers specifically to the larger organisms of an environment's biological community, such as mammals, or to the ecological community overall).

It’s ironic that people are so bent on getting rid of dandelions, because they can in fact be good for both the macro and the microbiome (the microorganisms, such as bacteria, of an environment's biological community). Dandelions are an indicator species: their presence or absence reflects the conditions of the surrounding environment. For example, their ability to concentrate trace metals is useful for monitoring air and soil pollution. They’re also beneficial (and arguably necessary) to pollinators like bees, which are an integral part of the ecosystem.
The term soil microbiome encompasses all microorganisms in a soil environment, such as plant pathogens and bacteria beneficial to plant growth. Just one teaspoon of soil can be home to 100 million to 1 billion bacteria! Dandelions’ wide root network breaks up dense, hard-packed soil and their tap-roots move nutrients like calcium and nitrogen upwards from deeper soil to soil layers where other plants are able to access the nutrients as well. Both of these traits of dandelions mean they can improve overall soil fertility and help promote the growth of microorganisms.

Caryopsis, J. (n.d.). The Biology of Dandelions.

Macro. (n.d.). Dictionary.com Unabridged.http://www.dictionary.com/browse/macro

Biome. (n.d.). Dictionary.com Unabridged.http://www.dictionary.com/browse/biome

Microbiome. (n.d.) American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. (2011).http://www.thefreedictionary.com/microbiome
Coombs, A. (2013, January 1). The Soil Microbiome.

Ingham, E. R. (n.d). Soil Bacteria.

Sanchez, A. (n.d) Ten Things You Might Not Know About Dandelions.

Kabata-Pendias, A., & Dudka, S. (1991). Trace metal contents of Taraxacum officinale (dandelion) as a convenient environmental indicator.

Czarnowska, K., & Milewska, A. (2000). The Content of Heavy Metals in an Indicator Plant (Taraxacum Officinale) in Warsaw.

Smith, C. (n.d.). What does an Indicator Species Do.

Taproot. (2016, June 08). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taproot

Weisman, W., Halsey, D., Ruddock, B. (2014, August) Integrated Forest Gardening: the Complete Guide to Polycultures and Plant Guilds in Permaculture Systems.

Hemenway, T. (2001) Gaia's Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture.


Dandelions and Climate Change:
Lessons from Your Front Lawn
Apparently dandelions have adapted differing strategies for differing circumstances. It behooves us to look out our windows at these beautiful yellow blossoms and contemplate this extraordinary plant’s capacity to cope in a changing world—and then to consider whether we, too, are capable of such adaptability in the face of environmental change at a pace heretofore unknown.

Phenotypic Plasticity
Phenotypic plasticity in plants includes the allocation of more resources to the roots in soils that contain low concentrations of nutrients and the alteration of leaf size and thickness.Dandelions are well known for exhibiting considerable plasticity in form when growing in sunny versus shaded environments. The transport proteins present in roots are also changed depending on the concentration of the nutrient and the salinity of the soil.



Studies have shown that dandelion root is effective at treating cancer. Stay with us on this- we know it sounds impossible.

The properties of the root have, in several studies on different types of cancer, proven effective in inducing apoptosis (cell suicide) in cancerous cells while causing no damage to healthy cells. Up til now the research has been done on lab mice, but last year in Canada the University of Windsor began human clinical trials of dandelion tea as a cancer treatment. If reliably effective, this is gentler than chemotherapy and surgery, and could be an especially necessary option to explore for patients who are already too frail to undergo physically taxing cancer treatments.

To a certain extent, the world around you might already be providing the medicine you need. It’s easy in our hyper-pharmacological culture to dismiss plant-medicine as pseudoscience, but for many ailments you’re already using plants that have been transformed into pills- for example, Aspirin is derived from willow tree bark (thanks Hippocrates!), and Taxol, a highly successful cancer treatment, is derived from yew tree bark.

We would not advocate that a patient currently fighting cancer up and drop their treatment to start chewing on dandelion roots, but thinking toward the future and of the changes needed in our medical system, it becomes necessary to ask: why we are not making the best of an apparently potent medicine that’s lurking on our boulevards?

The Dandelion Root Project. (n.d.).

Pandey, S. (2015, February 19). Human clinical trials on for cancer killing dandelion extract.

Sigstedt, S., Hooten, C., Callewaert, M., Jenkins, A., Romero, A., Pullin, M., Steelant, W. (2008, May 01). Evaluation of aqueous extracts of Taraxacum officinale on growth and invasion of breast and prostate cancer cells.

Chatterjee, S. J., Ovadje, P., Mousa, M., Hamm, C., & Pandey, S. (2011). The Efficacy of Dandelion Root Extract in Inducing Apoptosis in Drug-Resistant Human Melanoma Cells.

Ovadje, P., Hamm, C., & Pandey, S. (2012, February 17). Efficient Induction of Extrinsic Cell Death by Dandelion Root Extract in Human Chronic Myelomonocytic Leukemia (CMML) Cells.

Clinical Trials to Begin: Dandelion root far more effective in fighting cancer cells than chemotherapy. (2016).

Aspirin. (2016, June 02).

Success Story: Taxol (NSC 125973). (n.d.) https://dtp.cancer.gov/timeline/flash/success_stories/S2_taxol.htm

Have you ever eaten a dandelion? The roots, leaves, and petals are tastier than you might think, and can be used to make a variety of dishes with various health benefits. They are full of minerals and vitamins (embed a link to nutrition page here), and the root in particular has a variety of medicinal uses that have been documented in ancient medical records & herblore, and which are currently being investigated and validated by modern science. Dandelions combat vitamin deficiency, provide you with antioxidants, support your immune system, are a diuretic, and promote liver functioning and digestion.

They’re especially great for your gut! We've all got our very own microbiomes on or inside parts of our bodies, such as our skin or gastrointestinal tracts. Dandelions are good for human being's microbiomes because their roots contain inulin, a carbohydrate and soluble fiber. Inulin helps your microbiome because it can be a prebiotic, which means it can promote the development and activity of microorganisms that are beneficial to your health; it supports the growth of good gut bacteria and helps your digestive system .

There are all sorts of reasons to try dandelion as a tincture, tonic, extract, snack, or tea. Please have a conversation with your doctor in the event that you decide to start taking this plant as a treatment or supplement.

University of Maryland Medical Center (2015, June 06) Dandelion.

United States Department of Agriculture. (2016, May). Dandelion Greens.

Sanchez, A. (n.d) Ten Things You Might Not Know About Dandelions. Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association. http://www.mofga.org/Default.aspx?tabid=756Wambold, K., Ablir, D. (2013) Dandelion.

Lixandru, M. (2014, December 12) Properties and Benefits of Dandelions. 

Hourdajian, D. (2006) Introduced Species Summary Project: Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale).http://www.columbia.edu/itc/cerc/danoff-burg/invasion_bio/inv_spp_summ/Taraxum_officinale.htm

Arshad Kassim, M., Baijnath, H., Odhav, B. (2014, August 04) Effect of traditional leafy vegetables on the growth of lactobacilli and bifidobacteria.http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25088723

Susan G Komen (n.d) Dandelion.http://ww5.komen.org/BreastCancer/Dandelion.html

Wilderness Awareness School (n.d) Edible Weeds: Herbal Medicine Chest in Your Back Yard.https://www.wildernessawareness.org/articles/edible-weeds-herbal-medicine-chest-your-back-yard

Native American Ethonobotany Database (n.d)http://naeb.brit.org/uses/search/?string=dandelion

Group, E. (2015) The Top 9 Herbs for Liver Cleansing.http://www.globalhealingcenter.com/natural-health/top-9-herbs-for-liver-cleansing/

Organic Information Services Pvt Ltd. (2011) Health Benefits of Dandelions. https://www.organicfacts.net/health-benefits/herbs-and-spices/health-benefits-of-dandelion.html

1471: Gut Fauna. (2015, October 6).http://www.explainxkcd.com/wiki/index.php/1471:_Gut_Fauna

Inulin. (2016, June 4). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inulin

Prebiotic. (2016, May 27)https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prebiotic_%28nutrition%29


Here are some resources for learning how to do urban foraging, navigating food systems, and thinking about your relationship with the local ecosystem:

NOTE: Never forage from an area that has been sprayed with pesticides.
Only forage in spaces free of contaminants, and if you have any doubt about
identification or safety: Don’t eat it!

When you forage, consider other species' needs. Do not take it all! Consider what birds, insects might need to sustain themselves.

Plant Foragers
(Yahoo group, great resources and answers to questions you might post)

North Country Food Alliance


Eat the Weeds

"Wildman" Steve Brill

Eat Your Sidewalk 

Michael Pollan, The Botany of Desire: A plant's eye view of the world. (2001) New York: Random House.

Michael Pollan, The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals. (2006) New York: Penguin Press.

Michael Pollan, In Defense of Food: An eater's manifesto. (2008) New York: Penguin Press.

Will Allen & Charles Wilson, The Good Food Revolution: Growing healthy food, people, and communities. (2012) New York, NY: Gotham Books.



We are grateful for where our food came from.

This thought before a meal is non-denominational: no matter who you are or where your food came from, the thing that you are eating has a relationship beyond yours to it, and the food’s to your microbiome… it is a fact both hard-science and philosophical that every action of yours happens within a system.

As you inhale, imagine the place that surrounded what it used to be before it was processed and brought to you. A cornfield in Fargo? The garden behind the restaurant? The crack in the sidewalk?

As you take a bite, pay attention to the insects, animals, and other things that might have been harmed or displaced so that you may eat comfortably, and the labor someone else put into preparing the food.

As you digest, remember that you are only as healthy as the macrobiome is, and that you play a role in making the best of it.

There are countless dandelion recipes online, from traditional to experimental . Here is a selection:

Forager Chef Alan Burgo

Dandelion Recipes: A Wonderful, Edible Weed

Mark Bittman's Dandelion Greens with Double Garlic

How to Eat Dandlion Flowers


Dandelion Rubber
"Kultevat Inc., a company devoted to the commercial development of high-quality rubber and co-products from the Russian dandelion (Taraxacum kok-saghyz, or TKS), has received its first process patent. U.S. Patent No. 9,346,924 B2, issued May 24 2016, covers dandelion, composition and products"

Dandelion Rubber Tires
"In conjunction with The Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology, the Julius Kuehn-Institute, and EKUSA, Continental Tire is now making and testing car and light truck tire tread made out of 100% “dandelion natural rubber” polymer, with plans to begin manufacturing consumer-grade road tires made from dandelion-derived rubber within the next five to 10 years.
“In agricultural terms, dandelions are an undemanding plant, growing in moderate climates, even in the northern hemisphere, and can be cultivated on land not suitable for food production,” noted Dr. Carla Recker, who heads up the Continental team involved in the development of this super material."




• Welcome!
Come Make the Best of It

• About Making the Best of It

• The Dandelion Memorial Reader

• Project Documentation

• Loss, Danger, Joy:
Questions for Climate Chaos

• Recipes & Nutrition

• Dandelion Research,
Rumors & Resources

• Participate!

• Thanks & Credits