This dandelion variety produces high-quality latex that's turned into rubber.
Who's your daddy?
Taraxacum kok-saghyz, commonly known as the Kazakh dandelion, rubber root, and Russian dandelion, is a perennial that blooms in May and June. This self-fertile species has both male and female reproductive organs.
A member of the Aster family, the sun-loving plant matures to approximately 12" high by 12" wide. It's found just about everywhere, from shady spots to full sun. And it loves moist soil.
(By Vadim Indeikin, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)
So much more than a mere weed
Dandelion leaves can be eaten raw or cooked. Unopened flower buds are used to make fritters. When dried, the entire plant can be used to make tea, from its tasty leaves to its roots. The roots can also be dried and roasted to make a coffee substitute similar to chicory.
These roots are the source of the high-quality latex used for making rubber. They are always harvested in the fall before hard frosts can destroy any of the valuable latex. They're then macerated to extract the liquid. Roots are also rich in inulin. After the latex is extracted, the remaining inulin can be converted to alcohol for use as fuel. It really is an amazingly useful plant.
Rubber root will succeed in ordinary garden soil but prefers moist well-drained soil rich in humus. For best results, plant in full sun in a location without heavy or compacted soil. It grows with or without direct sunlight. Until the root has developed, seedling top growth will be very slow.
At planting time, it's advantageous to interplant rubber dandelions with a catch crop, such as lettuce or radishes.
Taraxacum kok-saghyz has been grown commercially in Russia as a rubber-producing plant. During the Second World War, it was trialed in several countries and yielded commercial harvests in Scandinavia, Britain, the northern United States, as well as Canada. During the North American trials, plants grew better in the northern part of the U.S. and in Canada. However, with the invention of cheap artificial rubber, interest in this plant waned.Natural rubber comes from the sap of the Hevea brasiliensis tree. It takes six years for the trees to produce sap. They remain productive for approximately 28 years. A typical tree will produce 19 pounds of rubber every year throughout its lifetime.
Interest in the Russian dandelion has increased rapidly since NovaBioRubber was announced as the winner of the 2019 Med-Tech Innovation Award for Materials Innovation.
The road to sustainability
Environmental problems with natural rubber
The production of natural rubber is responsible for widespread deforestation. Most natural rubber is used to make tires. Relying on this rubber to meet rising demands is not sustainable and has become problematic due to decreasing yields brought about by falling prices. Farmers are switching to more profitable crops, such as palm oil.
Climate change poses yet another threat. Challenges like these make the future of natural rubber production extremely uncertain. However, manufacturing synthetic rubber requires crude oil. Therefore, it has become important to find an environmentally friendly and sustainable alternative.
Did you know?
The first people to use rubber were the indigenous peoples of Central America who made rubber balls and boots around 1600 B.C. In 1495, Christopher Columbus observed native Haitians playing with a rubber ball.
The first forms of rubber could not stand up to temperature fluctuations. Charles Goodyear accidentally stumbled upon the process of vulcanization when he added sulphur to a latex mix, making it stronger.
Rubber erasers were created quite by accident. In the late 18th century, Englishman Edward Nairne accidentally picked up a cube of sap to erase a pencil mark, noting how well it worked.
The first rubber band was invented in 1845. The largest recorded rubber band ball consists of more than 175,000 bands weighing an astonishing 4,594 pounds.
The Mayans called it kik, meaning blood. Native Mexicans named it olli or castilloa; West Africans referred to it as funtumia elastica.
Only 40% of the rubber used today is natural rubber from tree sap.
The tire manufacturing industry is one of the biggest consumer. Rubber latex is actually white before a black carbon filler is added to give it the dark color and make tires stronger.
Approximately 33 billion pounds of rubber are produced each year; about two-thirds of that is synthetic.
Rubber from recycled tires is used to build roads, pave playgrounds, and as an alternative fuel.
(present from the little girl next door)
4 cups fresh, washed dandelion flowers
2 cups flour
2 cups milk
Combine milk, flour, and eggs. Beat until blended well. Heat a small amount of olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Holding the bottom of the flowers, dip them into the batter until completely coated. Place in skillet. Once they brown, flip them and brown other side. Remove and drain on a paper towel.
Serve warm. Drizzle with honey, syrup, jam, or powdered sugar, if desired.
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