Mama Hen’s Scratchings: D is for Dandelion

What is it people have against these little yellow flowers?

Once considered among the most desirable of herbs, today the dandelion is widely reviled as an obnoxious weed. But it’s a valuable plant.

Dandelions are actually good for your lawn and garden.

  • Their wide-spreading roots loosen hard-packed soil and help aerate the earth.
  • Their taproots bring up nutrients for shallow-rooting plants.
  • They help fruit to ripen by attracting pollinating insects and releasing ethylene

Dandelions are good for wildlife.

  • They’re an important nectar and/or pollen source for many early-emerging pollinators, including honeybees and several butterfly species.
  • The seeds are an important food source for certain birds.
  • Many other animals eat the plant.

More importantly, dandelions are good for YOU. The entire plant is edible and nutritious.

  • Dandelion greens are a rich source of vitamins A, C, and K, and also contain moderate amounts of calcium, potassium, iron, lutein, inulin, and manganese.
  • The raw flowers contain diverse phytochemicals, including polyphenols and
  • The roots contain a substantial amount of the prebiotic fiber inulin.

Humans have taken advantage of these nutritious plants for millennia. Dandelions were used by ancient Egyptians, by the Greeks and the Romans, and in traditional Chinese and Native American medicines:

Hand-colored print in A Curious Herbal, 1737, by Elizabeth Blackwell

  • as a diuretic;
  • to improve liver and gallbladder health;
  • to boost the immune system;
  • to support healthy hormone levels;
  • to address warts, acne, and other skin inflammation;
  • to improve digestion and overall gut health;
  • to support the health of people who have cancer;
  • to relieve headaches, menstrual cramps, backaches, stomach aches and even depression.

No wonder that from ancient times through the nineteenth century, people pulled the grass from their yards and gardens so dandelions could grow!

So, how can we take advantage of the many benefits of dandelions?

  • Be sure any you pick have not been sprayed with pesticide, insecticide, or any other poison!
  • Wash them well.
  • Use the greens in salads or quiches, on sandwiches, or sautéed as a side dish—anywhere you’d use spinach or other greens, dandelion greens (both leaves and stalks) can be used. The younger and smaller they are, the more tender and less bitter they’ll be.
  • Put the blossoms (before seeding, for best results) in salads, or fry as fritters.
  • Wine can be made from the blossoms.
  • Dry and roast the roots to make root beer or coffee-type beverages.
  • An internet search will yield many tasty recipes.

Note: Dandelion’s strong diuretic activity makes it an inappropriate choice for someone with low blood pressure or excessive urination.

Non-food uses:

  • The yellow flowers can be dried and ground into a yellow-pigmented powder and used as a dye.
  • The latex, or sap, from the dandelion stems can be used topically on warts or other skin issues. Apply several times daily for best results.
  • The latex produced exhibits the same quality as the natural rubber from rubber trees. Scientists have developed a dandelion cultivar suitable for the commercial production of natural rubber.

And, of course, you can make a wish before blowing a seed-blossom. Who knows; maybe it’ll come true.

Best of all: you can probably find plenty growing in your own and neighbors’ yards, free!

This post is day 4 of the A-Z challenge.

2 responses to this post.

  1. It is wonderful that there are so many positive uses for dandelions especially given how readily abundant they are. Weekends In Maine

    Reply

  2. Wow. This is helpful. I am afraid I have been a dandelion offender. I know better now!

    Reply

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