How to Use Dandelions
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You may think of dandelions as pesky weeds, but these flowers actually have a number of beneficial qualities. Dandelions can be used in your yard to improve the soil quality, and they can also be eaten or used in natural remedies. In addition, they are a great early flower for pollinators. In this blog post, we will explore how to use dandelions for their many benefits. We’ll provide some recipes and tips on how to get the most out of these versatile plants! So, instead of asking “how can you get rid of dandelions” how about asking, “how can I make the most of my dandelions?”
Are dandelions weeds?
The dandelion is a plant that has been both cherished and reviled throughout history. For some, its bright yellow flowers are a cheerful sign of spring, while for others its aggressive growth habit makes it nothing more than a weed.
So, what exactly is a dandelion? And why do people have such strong feelings about it? Dandelions are actually a member of the sunflower family, and are native to Europe and Asia. The dandelion gets its name from the French word for “tooth” (dent), referring to the jagged shape of its leaves. The dandelion is a hardy plant that can grow in a wide range of habitats, and it has a long taproot that makes it difficult to remove from the ground. This, combined with its prolific seed production (each flower can produce up to 200 seeds!), makes the dandelion a plant that is very difficult to control.
While some people see dandelions as nothing more than weeds, others have come to appreciate their many benefits. So really, whether you consider the dandelion a weed or a beneficial flower is all about perspective.
Why dandelions are awesome
At first glance, dandelions may not seem like much. But dandelions are actually quite amazing! In the ecological sense, dandelions are a great source of food for bees and other pollinators. If you are a beekeeper, or want to become one, you’ll appreciate this early flower that kicks off pollination season for your bees. Dandelions are also helpful in aerating the soil and enriching it with nutrients. Their deep roots help break up compacted soil and pull nutrients like potassium and calcium up to the surface, making them available for other plants. They can also help to hold soil in place, preventing erosion.
From a health and human use perspective, dandelions contain a number of vitamins and minerals that can be good for your health. The entire dandelion plant is actually edible – from root to flower. And each part can be used in different ways, as we’ll discuss below.
Dandelions are also free! You don’t have to plant dandelions or propagate them, just let them grow and harvest in the wild (just be sure you are harvesting from lawns that have not been chemically treated).
Lastly, dandelions are awesome because you can make beautiful crowns out of them. Obviously.
When dandelions are not so awesome
It is true that dandelions can look like they are taking over your lawn, but we find that once they flower and die, grass fills in the gaps quickly. And they look beautiful when they are in bloom! But, for some the amount of dandelions will get overwhelming. In this case, it is best to pull at the root and NOT use a pesticide, as pesticides will harm the animals that visit your flowers.
Dandelions in the vegetable garden can also be a blessing and a curse. They will attract pollinators that will help your vegetables to grow and fruit. However, if they start to overcrowd vegetables, they can shade them and steal their nutrients. So, it is important to keep an eye on dandelions in the garden and pull them up if they start to crowd out other plants.
If you absolutely need to get rid of dandelions in the garden, the best way to do this is to dig them up by the root. This is easiest when the soil is moist after a good rain. They have very deep roots, so sometimes you need to dig down deeply to get to them. You can also try smothering them with a thick layer of mulch. But be warned, dandelions are very resilient and they may come back!
Medicinal benefits of dandelions
Dandelions have many health benefits. In traditional Chinese medicine, dandelions are used to treat liver problems, while in Ayurvedic medicine they are considered an “adaptogen,” meaning they help the body cope with stress. For centuries, they have been used to treat disorders such as diarrhea, indigestion, and constipation. The leaves are high in vitamins A, C, and K, as well as fiber. The roots are a good source of inulin, which is a type of prebiotic fiber that can help improve gut health. Dandelions are also a rich source of antioxidants, which can help to protect the body against disease.
When used topically, dandelions can help to relieve pain and inflammation. The milky sap that comes from the stem can be used to treat warts, while the leaves can be made into a poultice to reduce swelling. Oils that have been infused with dandelion flowers can be used to treat eczema and other skin conditions when made into a balm or salve.
For more information on traditional and emerging health benefits of dandelions check out this summary from Healthline.
Dandelions as food
Dandelions are one of the most versatile plants around. What part of the dandelion plant can you eat? All of them! Every part of the plant can be used in some way, making it a valuable resource for anyone looking to live a more sustainable lifestyle.
If you want to add dandelions to your diet, the best way to do this is to start with the leaves. They can be added to salads or cooked like other greens. The taste of dandelion greens has been described as “peppery” or “bitter.” If you find them too bitter, you can blanch the leaves in boiling water for a few minutes to mellow out the flavor. Make sure to harvest young leaves before they get too tough.
Dandelion flowers can be used to make tea, and they can also be added to salads or used as a garnish. Dandelion wine is made by fermenting the flowers, and it has a sweet, honey-like flavor.
The roots can be roasted and ground into coffee, or they can be boiled and eaten like carrots. They can even be used to make dandelion beer. But they are most often used to make tea. Roots should be dried and roasted, then brewed into a tea that helps to soothe the digestive system.
More dandelion recipes
Looking for some dandelion recipes? Check out these links for some ideas:
How to harvest dandelions
The best time to harvest dandelions is in the spring or early summer when the leaves are young and tender. You can also harvest the flowers, which are typically in bloom from May to June. To harvest the roots, it is best to do this in the fall after the first frost. This is when they are at their sweetest and most nutritious.
When harvesting dandelions, make sure to only take what you need from each plant. This will ensure that the plant can regrow and continue to support local wildlife.
Dandelions are a plant that many people consider to be a weed, but as you can see, there are many ways to use them. Leaving them is a friendly thing to do for your local pollinators, but you can also share in the bounty. Whether you want to add them to your diet or use them for their medicinal benefits, dandelions are a valuable resource. Leaving them is also a friendly thing to do for your local pollinators.
So next time you see them in your yard, don’t reach for the weed killer – reach for a basket instead.
What are some other ways you like to use dandelions? Let us know in the comments!