Dandelions, the Flowers we Love to Hate


Very soon we will be witness to the arrival of those bright and sunny yellow dandelion flowers. In the grass, along the road growing in the cracks in the sidewalk, these masters of survival will be popping up everywhere. Whether you love them or hate them, everyone young or old is familiar with the sunny yellow blossoms and the plant with the jagged leaves.Canadians spend millions of dollars every year trying to eradicate these yellow beauties from our lawns and gardens, but did you know there are several benefits to actually allowing these weeds to grow and thrive?

Good for our Bodies It is believed that the dandelion seed was brought over by the Europeans on the Mayflower as a medicinal and culinary ingredient. The use of dandelion for medicinal purposes can be traced back thousands of years to Egyptian, Greek, Roman, and Chinese cultures. Herbalists use dandelion plants today, to treat many conditions such as Anemia, kidney disease, jaundice, arthritis, respiratory infections, and gallstones and more commonly as a diuretic.Nutritionally speaking dandelions are more beneficial to your diet than most vegetables in your garden. Dandelions are full of antioxidants high in Vitamin A and C. Like tomatoes, kale and spinach, dandelion greens are full of calcium and protein. They are low in calories and rich in Iron. Organic stores, health stores and farmer’s markets carry a full line of dandelion products from the fresh leaves, dried leaf capsules, ground root powder, teas, wine and so much more.If you’re going to forage for your own supply, make sure you gather young plants, before the flower heads arrive from undisturbed land that has not been treated with herbicides, pesticides or other contaminants. Stay away from industrial sites or urban waste lots. ​​

A quick google search will find you a lot of recipes for both the flowers and the leaves, like this one.

Dandelion Pumpkin Seed Pesto 

Makes about 1 cup

3/4 cup unsalted hulled (green) pumpkin seeds 3 garlic gloves, minced 1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan 1 bunch dandelion greens (about 2 cups, loosely packed) 1 tablespoon lemon juice 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt Black pepper, to tasted

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Pour the pumpkin seeds onto a shallow-rimmed baking sheet and roast until just fragrant, about 5 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

Pulse the garlic and pumpkin seeds together in the bowl of a food processor until very finely chopped.

Add parmesan cheese, dandelion greens, and lemon juice and process continuously until combined. Stop the processor every now and again to scrape down the sides of the bowl. The pesto will be very thick and difficult to process after awhile — that's ok.

With the blade running, slowly pour in the olive oil and process until the pesto is smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Good for the Soil  Dandelions can be of benefit to your lawn. Their deep tap roots help break up hard packed soil which helps aerate the earth so nutrients water and oxygen can get to the roots of the surrounding plants. They also help pull calcium from deep down in the soil up to a level that makes it available for other plants to use, so essentially they help fertilize your lawn.The safest and most environmentally friendly way to remove dandelions from your lawn is to remove the plants by hand, using specific tools that help remove the long taproot. Picking the flowers off will help contain the spread and keeping your lawn healthy by yearly aerating and top dressing with compost will help keep the grass strong and choke out any weed seeds that try to establish a presence.

Good for the Bees and Pollinators

While Dandelions flower for most of the year, the dandelion’s peak flowering time is early spring from late March to May, when many bees and other pollinators emerge from their hibernation. Each one of the flowers in fact consists of up to 100 florets, each one packed full with nectar and pollen. This early, easily available source of food is a lifesaver for pollinators in spring.Bumblebees, solitary bees and honeybees all feast on dandelions for food, along with hoverflies, beetles, and butterflies such as the peacock and holly blue. Goldfinches and house sparrows eat the seeds. Yet most of us gardeners miss out on the enjoyment of watching wildlife feast on our dandelions, because we wage such a war against them as soon as we see them. So maybe we wait to wage our war on the flowers, take a couple of weeks off from mowing the lawn and plucking the flowers early in the spring, We’ll be rewarded with the sight of bees, butterflies, hoverflies and beetles feasting on the flowers, and goldfinches and house sparrows tucking into the seed. We’ll also have time for more interesting activities than mowing. Ultimately if you can’t win the battle, then enjoy the benefits of those weeds, with the sunny disposition and learn to live with them, leave them and love them. A portion of this blog was reprinted from an article I wrote that was published by the Morinville News in April 2014

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