DANDELION: Yields yellows and light browns
Source: Plentiful in many backyards
There are a few examples in the historic naming of this plant. One namesake comes from the French Normans following their defeat over England in 1066. They named it "dents de lion" translated to "tooth of the lion" from the flowerhead's appearance, like serrated teeth. The Spanish also called it "diente de leon". A more common French Canadian version name is "pis-en-lit" also translated in the Old English folk namesake "pis-a-bed", possibly due to its diuretic properties. In one Italian dialect, it's called "pisacan" meaning "dog pisses".
There is not a long history of the plant as a dye source. We know that the flowers, leaves and roots can be used to easily attain a yellow colour. Light greens, brownish yellows and light browns can also be attained in the dye bath with a little manipulation.
The plant is native to Asia and Europe. Over time, it was purposely spread to the Americas, Australia and Africa because of its nutritional values as a food source.
Throughout history, Ancient Greeks, Romans and Egyptians used dandelion for food and medicinal purposes. It was also used for thousands of years in traditional Chinese medicine. In China and South East Asia, dandelions helped with appendicitis, breast milk production, stomach and liver problems. Europeans used it to treat fevers, stomach, liver and skin ailments, diarrhea and fluid retention.
Dandelion seeds would have been brought to North America by European settlers in the early 1600's to harvest as food, medicine and wine. As we know, the seed spreads easily with the wind and can travel hundreds of miles as it did indeed throughout New England. California and Mexico were naturalized with dandelion by Spanish Explorers who settled the regions. French settlers originally established the plant in Canada.
Dandelion was well known to local Natives throughout North America. It was a plentiful source for food and medicine. The Algonquin of Quebec were known to eat the greens as a means to purify their blood and a poultice of crushed leaves used to dress broken bones. The Cherokee also drank an infusion as blood medicine and to calm nerves. They chewed the plant to alleviate toothache. The Iroquois dried the plant or used the roots in a drink to relieve pain, especially back pain and to treat anemia, a blood disorder. They applied a wash to the skin to remove liver/age spots and under the eyes for dark circles and puffiness. They also used a poultice or a liquid wash and applied it to swollen or injured testicles. The Ojibwe as well drank an infusion as blood medicine and also for heartburn. The Navajo applied a crushed plant poultice for swelling and a cold drink infusion to help in the speedy delivery of babies.
As a food source, North American Natives used dandelions to make wine and other drinks. The greens were added to salads or cooked with Maple sap.
Raw dandelions can be eaten whole. The greens are high in Vitamins A,B,C,D and K and also a good source of Iron, Potassium, Calcium and Zinc. The taste is similar to an endive, slightly bitter. The root can be infused as an herbal coffee and can stimulate appetite. The leaves in a tea are a good diuretic.
And it's important to note that with the dwindling bee population, dandelions are a good early source of nectar. And an abundant source of natural dye.