False Dandelions: Free Food Source?

Catsear False Dandelion

Will the real Dandelion please stand up?

I have been betrayed by the weeds on my lawn. They are impostors. Catsear, one of several False Dandelions, impersonate Dandelions so well that everyone I know calls them Dandelions and seem to “have never heard of Catsear.”

I found out about Catsear, and other False Dandelions when hundreds of them sprang up on lawns, fields and road sides after recent Spring rainy days. I thought they looked rather pretty, even though my lawn was in bad need of a good mow. And didn’t I hear somewhere that dandelions were very nutritious and have some healing benefits? Knowing they would only last as long as the mower blades were silent I decided to investigate. That’s when I learned about Catsear and false dandelions.

Question: Can Catsear and other false dandelions be consumed for the same health benefits as dandelions?

Benefits of Dandelions

Not only do dandelions have nutritional and medicinal qualities they also make good garden companions The longish taproot brings up nutrients for shallower rooted plants. Dandelions add nitrogen to the soil and attract pollinating insects to the garden.

Dandelion leaves are loaded with vitamins A, K and C, calcium, potassium, iron and magnesium. They have long been used as a folk remedy for liver and kidney problems and high blood pressure. Dandelions are a natural diuretic and are safer than other diuretics because they add potassium back that we lose through water elimination.

What is Catsear?

Catsear are perennials and will shoot up and bloom every Spring and Summer. They are native to some places in Europe and are introduced, or invasive In the United States. Catsear is found from the southeast north to New Jersey and westward to Mississippi. As with dandelions and other false dandelions, the seeds of Catsear are dispersed on a breeze and can travel far.

Those who wish to eliminate Catsear from the lawn can do so by using lime and nitrogen fertilizers for healthier grass. Healthier grass will discourage the growth of Catsear. There are also herbicides available that will eradicate them.

False Dandelion Types

Common Name
Scientific Name
Characteristics
Location
Catsear
Hypocaeris Radicata
Tall stems, basal rosette, hairy leaves
Southeastern United States, west to Mississippi, North to New Jersey
Texas Dandelion
Pyrrhopappus Caroliniaus
Deeply lobed and hairy leaves, distinguish from Catsear by purple middle
Eastern United States
Smooth Catsear
Hypocaeris Glabra
Smooth leaves, less bitter
Souteastern & Northeastern U.S. Western U.S, parts of Canada
Mountain Dandelion
Agoseris Glauca
waxy leaves, basal but not rosette
Western United States & Canada
Hawksbeard, Elegant & Narrowleaf
Crepis, Crepis Tectorum
Has both basal rosette and hairy leaves on stem, annual, not perenniel
Northern Hemispjhere, Tropical Africa, invasive in Northeastern U.S. & Canada
Autumn Hawkbit, Fall Dandelion
Leontondon Autumnalis
Resembles Catsear, flowers reddish underneath, appear June-October
Parts of Europe, Great Britian, Ireland

Ways To Eat Dandelions, False Dandelions

Add freshly washed leaves to garden salads

  • Make dandelion tea from the flowers
  • Make dandelion wine from the flowers
  • boil or saute leaves and eat like spinach
  • use the leaves in stir fries
  • Make into a batter with flour, onions, spices and a little milk to fry in a healthy oil

Are False Dandelions Edible?

To eat or not to eat…..that is the question. I am 99.9 percent sure that my “imposters” are Catsear. Although I found overwhelming support that Catsear is safe to eat I am not going to munch on my weeds. There is evidence that invasive weeds can mutate. In the state of Washington, False Dandelions are listed as noxious weeds. Best practices for weed eating is to consult an expert.

The possibility of insecticides or other chemicals in the soil is another reason to take care in eating weeds. Never eat weeds from an area that has been treated within in the past two years.

While I definitively would like the health benefits these weeds may offer, I am going to order Dandelion seeds, Taraxacum Officinale to plant in my garden. Then I know what I am eating is safe, and my garden will benefit as well.

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