Dandelion Greens -- Not Just for Breakfast Anymore
   Aqualand's scoop on Taraxacum officinale

 
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Dandelion Factoids

Origin Europe and Asia
Uses Very rich in nutrition
Description Pretty little weed

LA
You'll find these just across the alley from our official Aqualand parking lot.

Where to Find:  Dandelions grow in back lots, parks, and most Iowa lawns.  These particular ones grow right next to where I park my car.  A daily harvesting keeps them under control.  They shoot up new leaves in a few days.  Once they go to seed, they taste a little nasty.

History:  Some insist that beekeepers brought dandelions to America to feed their bees in the spring.  The greens make a fair to middlin' salad in the spring.  You wilt it with hot bacon grease, add onions and sliced boiled eggs and sprinkle with sugar and vinegar.  It didn't particularly appeal to me last millennium when my grandmother made me eat it but it is nutritious and cheap.  Dandelions usually taste bitter but they contain vitamins B1, B2, B5, B6, B12, C, E, P, and D plus biotin, inositol, potassium, and phosphorus.  No wonder my grandmother considered it a spring tonic.

LA
Always wash your dandelion greens.

Rinse First:  Since we yank these out of the ground, we like to rinse the dirt and dead leaves out of them.  Young flowers are apparently tastier than the heads that have gone to seed.  Plant eaters often head for the blooms first.  Throw away the deadheads.

LA
Uromastyx climb all over each other to devour dandelion blooms.

LA
Red-legged tortoise snacking on dandelions.

Tortoises Love Dandelions:  Red-legs, Greeks, and sulcatas all give dandelions two thumbs up on their menu.  Caution:  dandelions are too nutritious to feed to to tortoises as a steady diet.  Rich foods can cause "pyramiding" of their shells.

LA
Russian tortoise sampling a handful of wild greens.

Maybe too Rich:  Russian tortoises need a less nutritious diet.  In fact, most tortoises should be on a limited dandelion diet.  Give them more grasses and less dandelions.

LA
Hatchling iguanas chowing on dandelion greens.  (Shot thru glass.)

Iguanas Are Big Fans:  No reluctant eaters here when you offer your young iguanas fresh dandelion greens.  You want to vary their diet a lot.  But make sure you include dandelions (and other weeds).

LA
Adult iguanas especially love dandelions -- leaves, blooms, and roots.

Big Iguanas Are Bigger Fans:  Not a big trick to get an adult iguana to eat a couple of handsful of dandelions.  Bearded dragons enjoy dandelions also.  They're more of a salad to beardies.  Big iguanas really load up on dandelions (and other weeds).

LA
Sneaky way to get insectivores to eat dandelions.

Gut Load Your Crickets:  Most lizards eagerly eat crickets.  Excellent.  Because the lizards also consume whatever's in the crickets' digestive system.  Dandelions work as well as dusting crickets with the supplemental powders -- with less chance of over vitaminizing.

LA
Guinea pigs whistle for their dandelions.

Hay Eaters Love Dandelions:  Guinea pigs really love dandelion leaves.  Once they taste them, they get addicted instantly.  Dandelions contain the vitamin C your guinea pigs require.  You want to limit their intake of fresh greens, however.

LA
Bunnies need dandelions.

Vet Recommended:  Veterinarians often recommend dandelions as a spring tonic for droopy bunnies and rabbits.  Dandelions perk them right up.  Fresh greens are especially appreciated during and after pregnancy.

LA
Even the daintiest eaters appreciate dandelions.

Chinchillas:  Let your chinchillas eat as much hay as they want.  Give them dandelion leaves only as a treat.
 

Charlie Holloway, Barre, MA, December 24, 2008
Hey there.  Love your site. I just want to point some things out however.  Specifically in your spot about dandelion greens.
Dandelions are actually VERY good for tortoises.  Sure, it shouldn't be the only food you give a tortoise, but if half the diet (or even more) is dandelion, there shouldn't be any problems.  Now when you look at straight grassland species like the Sulcatas ... well those obviously need more grasses.
But as for Russian tortoises, they survive in the wild almost exclusively on broad leaf weeds and greens, which of course is what a dandelion is.  Russians eat very little in terms of grasses.  Dandelion greens are an excellent staple food for tortoises.
Also, dandelions will NOT cause pyramiding in carapaces.  It was once thought that excessive protein caused pyramiding, it is now widely believed that DEHYDRATION is the biggest culprit in pyramiding.  This is why tortoises (especially the hatchlings and young adults) require baths, to keep them perfectly hydrated.

A:  I did not know that.  I'll add your info to my dandelion page.  LA

LA

Last Words:  Dandelions may not grow on trees but they are free.  Help yourself to a big bunch.  Just make sure you don't overdo them.  And try some yourself.  Try my grandmother's recipe.  And when you get those packaged salad mixes, you'll often find some dandelion greens in there.  LA

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