Selling Dandelion
Answered by: Richard Alan Miller
Question from: Michael and Bunny
Posted on: May 23, 2005

Who to contact to sell harvested dandelions? How would they be stored and shipped?

Because the tops of Dandelion are also marketed (separately), I have used modified carrot harvesters. You can find used equipment of this type in Stockton, California, and other communities that row crop.

Be sure to check the roots for high levels of bacteria, when taken from pastures. Dandelion grows in most dairy operations, and can be as poor in quality as European imports.

Burdock grows along fence-line, and I’ve had best results using a disk plow. It can then be raked and picked up with potato gear (or equivalent). There is no market for the tops. Both crops should do well over the next several years. No mention of Chicory (Endive)?

Below is an excerpt from my book, "Native Plants of Commercial Importance" (OAK, Grants Pass, c1991. 343p. Reprinted by Acres, USA, Metairie, LA, c1998):

Latin Name:

Taraxacum officinale Wigg.

Synonyms:

Blowball, puffball, Irish daisy, priest’s crown, swine’s snout, lion’s tooth, white endive, wild endive, cankerwort.

Life Zone:

The reported life zone for this weed is 40-71 degrees F., with an annual precipitation of 12 to 106 inches, and a soil pH of 4.2 to 8.3. The plant is a hardy perennial, adaptable to most soil conditions. Strong regenerative properties make it difficult to eradicate.

Description:

The developing plant is characterized by a long, thick taproot, a rosette of short leaves, and a single hollow stem bearing a yellow flower, which turns into a round fluffy seed head at maturity. Upon injury the plant exudes a milky latex or juice.

The leaves are all radical and shiny green and without hairs, sessile and pinnate, the margin of each leaf cut into great jagged teeth, either upright or pointing somewhat backwards, and these teeth are themselves cut here and there into lesser teeth. It is this characteristic which gave the plant its most common name.

History:

Although dandelion is generally considered a ubiquitous weed, it is one of the most useful herbs, since all part of the plant can be used. Of commercial importance are the powdered leaves and root.

Germany, India, China, and Soviet Bloc countries are the current sources of supply for world consumption. Total volumes are now estimated to be in excess of 50 ton of leaf, and more than 200 ton for the root.

Chemistry:

Dandelion root contains taraxacin (bitter principle), taraxacerin, inulin, a sugar called lauvulin, choline, resin, fat acids, two phytosterols, etc. Inulin is most abundant in autumn, sugar in spring (fructose, glucose, sucrose, etc.). Also phenolic acids and vitamins.

The leaves contain lutein, violazanthin, and other carotenoids, bitter substances, vitamins A, B+, C, D, and others. Vitamin A content (14,000 IU/100g) is higher than that in carrots (11,000IU/100g). Coumestrol has also been reported in dandelion, although not necessarily in the leaves.

Flowers (not desired in the product) contain carotenoids, mono- and di-esters with fatty acids, arnidol and others.

Uses:

The root is used as a simple bitter, and as a mild laxative, and as a coffee substitute. Extracts are used in tonics and anti-smoking preparations as well as in cosmetics and food flavorings.

The leaves have been used to treat infection, heartburn, gout, bruises, eczema, other skin problems and cancers, liver disease, stomach problems.

The plant itself is nutritious, being high in Vitamins A, C, and niacin. Dried and ground, roasted roots are used for non-caffinated, coffee-like beverages, as a flavoring agent in coffee and cocoa.

Harvesting:

Dandelion can be propagated from seed sown in spring, via a Brillion seeder-type of machine. It is often grown as an annual to prevent=20 bitterness from developing in the plant.

Often large stands can be found around dairy pastures. These need to be checked for bac=ADterial infestations, and other contamination from manure.

The major cultivation problem is grasses. Crops must be grown in low bacteria soils to keep roots in prime condition. It is critical that the plants not be allowed to flower prior to harvests.

Carlavirus is a disease of dandelion; Cystiphora taraxaci Kieffer (Dipera: Cecidomyiidae) have been reported as mining the leaves of dandelion in Kashmir, India. Aphis plantaginis Goetze (Homoptera, Aphidiae) is a pest of the plant, also.

Plants must not be allowed to flower before harvest. Harvest with a forage harvester and vacuum pickup (John Deere) the leaf. You will probably have to harvest the leaf 4 or 5 times each season, once the field has become established (either by reseeding or perennial rootstock development).

Rootstock for dried root or field expansion can be taken the third year, after final leaf harvests. A disk through the field might make the crop even more hardy and resistant to weeds and insects.

Leaf yields are estimated at about 500 pounds dry-weigh within two years. Root yields should be more than 1,000 pounds every third year, per acre.

Kiln dry roots and leaves separately. Roots can be field-dried if they have been chipped. Leaf can be dried in shaded areas, but no direct sunlight.

Reforestation:

Most regions consider this a noxious weed, often a candidate for spraying. Dairy farms consider it trouble because of it’s competition with pasture grasses. Seed is readily available for reseeding programs, when permitted.

Marketing:

To be marketable, dandelion root must have 2 percent maximum foreign organic material; 4 per cent maximum acid insoluble ash.

Powdered dandelion leaves are olive green in color, almost odorless and slightly bitter. It must contain no more than 2 percent foreign organic matter, also.

Both leaf and root command a higher price because of their difficulty in harvest. Bulk wholesale prices for leaf begin at $6.00 per pound, while root can sell for more than $3.80 per pound. If processed for manufacturing use, prices for leaf and root can be more than $4.50 per pound in tonnage.

One current new market is using dandelion leaf as a tobacco flavor substitute. When milled correctly, it tastes exactly like chewing tobacco, although has a bitter aftertaste which may affect marketing of this product.

The new direction will be using the dandelion root as an ingredient for a coffee substitute for the mass markets.

A proforma proposal for "Indian Herbal Coffee" for the mass market can be found in "The Herb Market Report."

Toxicity:

Comparatively large doses may be ingested without toxic effects. The bitter principle may reflexively stimulate gastric secretions.

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