In praise of dandelions

Dandelions seem to be universally despised, but not by me!  I love them:

  • they are sunny and cheerful
  • they have deep roots that reach down and bring up nutrients into their leaves which they then donate to the soil
  • they feed the birds with their seed
  • they have medicinal properties
  • they can also be eaten

I have not always loved them, I used to try to remove them as other people generally do.  But then I saw their benefits and now I enjoy letting them do their own thing.  I don’t have problems with them getting out of hand and I like them mixed in with the other plants.

DSCN6172 dandelions in lawn Dandelions in the lawn

DSCN6154 dandelions and sweet cicely Dandelions and sweet cicely

DSCN6160 dandelions and spring flowers Dandelions and spring flowers

I did this post because my partner was complaining about the dandelions in the lawn and I wanted to stand up for them and to see what other people think.

About Anni Kelsey

Author of Edible Perennial Gardening and avid researcher into edible perennials and associated useful plants.
This entry was posted in Polycultures, Relationship with nature, Uncategorized and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to In praise of dandelions

  1. mortaltree says:

    Lately I “weeded” a bed of Dandelions to make room for some Beets that I later want to “harvest,” meaning I will weed them to eat them. Then I go inside and make dinner out of the dandelions. So weather I harvested or weeded the Dandelions is hard to tell because what I did with the Dandelions I will soon do with the Beets when they’re ready for harvest/weeding.
    Love the post!

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    • annisveggies says:

      Do you eat the leaves / flowers or roots? Or all three? We occasionally use the leaves but I have not actually got round to trying the roots. I have seen some lovely things made with the flowers on foraging websites like syrups.

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      • Neil says:

        We use the leaves regularly ourselves. The roots too precious to dig up as they will give us the next years crop!
        This time of year the leaves are at their best, full of minerals, great Spring tonic.
        Helen who is worried about them spreading, simply nip the flower buds out of the plants, an added incentive is you can lightly cook the buds and eat them as a veg.

        Intercrop them between your veg beds and take advantage of the wasted paths
        http://greencamera.blogspot.co.uk/2012/06/weed-inter-crops.html
        It’s difficult to get a more healthier green food than the Dandelion.

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      • mortaltree says:

        Mostly just the leaves. I’ve tried lacto-fermenting leaves and roots together for storage, but that really didn’t come out well.

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  2. I am not keen on things with deep roots that are difficult to get rid of when you have too many, so I try to keep the dandelions out of my garden. My father used to use the flowers to make a wine, but my small garden would need to be overrun with them to get enough. There is a house on the highroad that had a bed in its front garden full of dandelion flowers – very pretty. The next week full of “clocks” – still pretty. Week after not so pretty!

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  3. Andy P says:

    One of the things to try with dandelion roots is to dry them, then roast them under the grill, and crumble them up and make coffee with them. The last time I did they tasted just like coffee!

    I also read at the turn of last century (1900) it was common to sown them in rows for harvesting as a normal crop. What for I don’t remember but they haven’t always been a weed.

    Making coffee out of them was nice to try but quite a lot of work. I imagine that if you were set up properly to dry a lot of them, and roast a lot at a time it may well be worth doing as a coffee replacement. Considering all the different coffees on the market I have to say I couldn’t taste the difference between dandelion coffee and other coffee, it was certainly within the range of what can be called coffee.

    You roast them to the darkness of your preferred taste.

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  4. We have made dandelion wine out of the flowers which is very tasty indeed, but you need so many flowers, and finding a good patch that isn’t a dogwalker haven is a bit of struggle. I let them grow at the edges of our garden and in our lawn, just not in with the veggies and fruit.

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  5. Simon says:

    The leaves make great pet rabbit fodder too.

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  6. Keira says:

    I let my dandelions run free, but don’t eat them. This is just because I find them too bitter, and my partner has even less of a fondness for bitter greens than I do. I tried blanching them once, under an upturned pot in the lawn, but it just became a slug hotel!

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  7. Vivi says:

    We never tried to keep the dandelions out of the ‘lawn’ (which these days consists largely of soft moss and flowering ‘weeds’, because irrigation and frequent mowing are a waste of energy and time). In fact, I had planned to collect some seeds later this year because last year there were so few dandelions. But they’ve recovered on their own, so our ‘lawn’ is currently spotted with dozens of dandelions, forget-me-nots, and a surprising amount of cowslips, which also have spread like wildfire compared to previous years. This replaces the snowdrops, crocusses and squills that have stopped flowering several weeks ago, and soon this first generation of dandelions will be replaced by marguerites, bell flowers, columbines and poppies. And all the time the daisies, tetterworts and purple dragons just keep on blooming like troopers. Having something blooming in the meadow for as long as possible looks nicer than what my father used to refer to as “green concrete”, and it keeps the bees coming back to pollinate our berry shrubs and fruit trees.

    I don’t really use the dandelions much, though. I’m not much into leafy salads or decaffeinated ‘coffee’, so I really only use some leaves as the bitter touch in otherwise overly sweet fruit salad if they are plentiful just when the chicory goes out of season. (Recipe: 1 large apple, 1 orange, 1 banana, 1 chicory sprout or two handfulls of young dandelion leaves; cut everything into pieces small enough to eat with a spoon, mix in a large bowl, and pour some orange juice, apple juice or yoghurt with lemon juice and sugar over it; maybe add some hacked nuts and/or rum-soaked raisins. This was my mother’s way to make me eat healthy chicory, because like most kids I didn’t like bitter things and refused to eat it as a vegetable.)
    When I was a little kid, I used to make necklaces out of the flowers and stems (the stems curl up into pretty ringlets if you split them partially and put them under water).

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    • Anni Kelsey says:

      Your meadow sounds utterly delightful! I haven’t heard of tetterworts and purple dragons, I don’t think we have them in the UK. I plan to try your fruit salad recipe along with other suggestions people have made in response to this post. Thank you.

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      • Vivi says:

        Ah, they’re probably just called differently in the UK and I picked the US English translation by accident. Purple dragon is just a deadnettle with purple blossoms (lamium maculatum) – and I probably got it mixed up with purple archangel (lamium purpureum), since the former is a moisture-loving species, according to Wikipedia. And tetterwort is greater celandine (chelidonium majus). Both are pretty much unkillable weeds in my area. The kind that grows in railway tracks and the spots in the garden that I never irrigate. Though maybe they only grow on sandy soil. You’re in a loamy area, right?

        The forget-me-nots may have been a bad idea, though. They self-seed and spread like nothing else, forming carpets several feet in diameter. And while they are pretty, I think they may be distracting the bees too much. At least the currant bushes don’t get pollinated properly anymore these last 2 years – only the first half of the flowers on each stem develop into berries, the last half die off after flowering. Last year, I thought that was because of the long winter, followed by a period when everything that was supposed to bloom over the course of March and early April flowered at once, so that there even was an article in the newspaper saying that the few bees that hadn’t starved over the long winter were then completely overwhelmed and couldn’t pollinate everything that was blooming. And then it got hot and dry while the berries were ripening. But this year, winter ended 6 weeks earlier than last year and the spring flower bloom was nicely spaced out. And I mulched and watered my currant bushes, so they can’t have sacrificed the last berries because of drought stress. The forget-me-nots opened half-way through the currant bloom, and I do see some bees taking an interest in the small blue flowers, so they might be the culprit. But I’m not sure – there were a few rainy days during the latter half of the currant bloom, as well. Still, we’ve had rainy springs in earlier years, too, but never this odd pattern of only half-pollinated currant berry stems.

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  8. Romi says:

    We have make ‘Dandelion muffins’ twice this months, and they were delicious! We used one cup of petals for 10 smallish sized muffins.
    Danelion flower tempura seems also popupar. I also found an article from The Guardian about Dandelion rissotto, too.

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    • Anni Kelsey says:

      Thanks very much for that hint. After reading it I made some cup cakes to which I added dandelion petals. They looked fine and tasted really nice. I had not put any vanilla essence in but they tasted very vanilla-y. I tried them out on the neighbours as well and despite looking a bit worried before biting into them, the unanimous agreement was that they were VERY nice!

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