One of the first hints that spring has sprung is the appearance of sunny yellow dandelions throughout the United States. Sadly, this very useful plant has gotten a bad wrap and is disparaged as a “weed”, eliciting disdain among some gardeners and triggering chemical warfare on lawns across America.
But there are many reasons to love and respect these sunny little flowers. Fun fact: The dandelion is the only flower that represents the 3 celestial bodies of the sun, moon and stars. The yellow flower resembles the sun, the seed puffball resembles the moon and the dispersing seeds resemble the stars.
Here are 6 reasons to stop calling the dandelion a “weed” and recognize it for its benefits and versatility. So stop pulling those dandelions and stop spraying toxic Roundup herbicide or other weedkillers on them.
After winter, dandelion flowers are, in many cases, the first source of food for bees and other pollinators, providing pollen and nectar. With the ongoing decline of bee and pollinator populations due to widespread synthetic pesticide use and habitat loss, these beneficial insects need all the help they can get. If you have a yard that has other early-flowering plants, dandelion flowers aren’t necessary for bees and can be harvested for your own consumption.
Dandelion leaves are edible and are loaded with Vitamin A, Vitamin C and Vitamin K. They are also a good source of Vitamin E, potassium and folate. And they contain more calcium and iron than spinach. Popeye, take note! Dandelion leaves are on the bitter side, so chop some up and toss them into your salad mix or boil them in soup to reduce the bitterness.
Dandelion flowers are edible and high in antioxidant polyphenols. Just like the leaves, you can throw them into a salad and eat them raw. You can also make tea from the flowers and leaves. Steep chopped flowers and leaves in a cup of water for 5 minutes and, voila!
Dandelion roots are – you guessed it – edible! Again, after washing, the roots can be eaten raw. Dandelion roots can also be made into tea or coffee and there are many recipes on the internet. The roots are also part of the ingredients list for many homemade root beer recipes.
Dandelions contain compounds that have medical and curative properties. More research is needed, but dandelions are known to help with inflammation, lower blood sugar levels, lower blood pressure, reduce cholesterol levels, improve liver health, and have anti-cancer effects. It’s crazy to try to eliminate a plant that has so much medicinal potential.
Dandelions can be made into rubber. Over half of the rubber consumed worldwide is synthetic and made from polluting fossil fuels. Natural rubber from rubber trees is linked to deforestation. Rubber made from dandelions could be a far more sustainable way of producing rubber. Unfortunately, the American Sustainable Rubber Company and Ohio State University began working on developing GMO dandelions specifically for rubber production. GMO dandelions haven’t been studied for their environmental, ecosystem and wildlife impacts and are not something we should support!
These 6 reasons could be the tip of the iceberg for the mighty dandelion. Dandelions are one of the most nutritious foods in the world and are able to grow nearly anywhere, in less-than-ideal soil conditions. And for most people, they are free. It’s a tragedy that we humans would try to annihilate such a beneficial plant.
What other uses do you have for dandelions? If you have recipes, please share them for the benefit of others. Comment below!