Submitted by PAM VARGA, Sahli Park Manager

When the first bright yellow Dandelion blossoms appear, homeowners run for their herbicide sprays, lawnmowers, and trowels and declare war! But wait, stop! Dandelions play an important ecological role and have many medicinal and culinary uses for humans, too. Put down your weapons of Dandelion Destruction and take another look at Dandelions. They’re not just another weed.

Dandelion flowers have both pollen and nectar providing an early spring food source for butterflies and bees, especially honeybees and bumblebees that have just emerged from their underground hibernation chambers. Several different butterfly and moth caterpillars also feed on the plant.

Dandelion species can be found in Europe, Asia, southern Africa, India, Australia, New Zealand, and North and South America. The Pilgrims brought Dandelion seeds with them to the New World to grow for medicinal and culinary purposes. In colonial gardens, in addition to their culinary uses, Dandelions were grown to be used as a cure for baldness, to relieve toothaches, to reduce fevers, to relieve weakness, lethargy and depression, to treat ulcers, and jaundice, and for liver, gall bladder and spleen problems.

Native Americans used parts of Dandelion plants to treat skin problems, gastrointestinal problems and throat ailments, to reduce swelling and to relieve heartburn. Dandelions were also used as a pain reliever, sedative and laxative. Native Americans also used different parts of the plant as food. 

Every part of the Dandelion is edible, roots, stems, leaves, buds and flowers. Dandelions are even more nutritious than Kale or Spinach! They are full of vitamins A, C, K, D, Folate ( Vitamin B ) and minerals Zinc, Iron, Calcium and Potassium and antioxidants that protect your body’s cells from damage and may even slow aging. The flowers can be used in jams, sauces, salads, brewing tea and making wine. They can be batter dipped and fried like fritters. Buds can be used in salads, pickled or boiled and seasoned with salt and pepper. The yellow petals can be added to cookies, breads and jelly. Although the leaves have a bitter taste, they can be added to salads. Blanching reduces the bitterness and younger greens are less bitter than older leaves. The roots can be dried or roasted then ground and made into a drink similar to coffee. The internet is full of recipes for Dandelions. But, before you plan a Dandelion feast for your family, it’s important to harvest Dandelions at the right time, before they go to seed. Follow recipe directions on when to harvest and how to cook them. Pick plants that have not been contaminated by herbicides or fertilizers.

Dandelions are also used in variety of herbal remedies. The Potassium in Dandelions is a natural diuretic ( it makes you pee ) and aids the body in eliminating excess fluid. Potassium may also help to control high blood pressure. Dandelion tea aids digestion and helps to remove toxins from the liver and blood. Dandelion herbal remedies are used to reduce inflammation, stimulate appetite, and in making a salve for sore muscles. Extracts from the roots and leaves can be used to lower cholesterol. But be careful in using Dandelions as medicine. Some people may be allergic and herbal remedies can interfere with other medications such Lithium, blood thinners, some antibiotics, diabetes medications, some heart and blood pressure medications , and antacids. As always, check with your doctor and do some research before trying any new medication or supplement.

And finally, the Dandelion flowers can be used to make a yellow dye. The sticky white sap in the stem and leaves (latex) can be used as a glue, a mosquito repellent, and a cure for warts.

Pretty impressive for a “weed”, right?

So before you go to war with this “obnoxious weed” consider all of its uses in nature, in herbal remedies and in the kitchen. Let the Dandelions grow until they just set seed. The you can declare war, but, we all know, the hardy and persistent Dandelion will probably be back next year.

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