What to do with Dandelions

There are some wonderful alternatives to fighting dandelions with chemicals.

They’ve really gotten a bad rap, actually. Nowadays when dandelions polka-dot our world with sunny yellow flowers, most of us groan and grab the nearest herbicide. The value of a perfectly green lawn has overshadowed the treasures hidden within this once-prized vegetation. By changing my perspective about these pretty plants, I discovered oodles of fun and delicious things to do with them.

In her book, The Teeth of the Lion: The Story of the Beloved and Despised Dandelion, Anita Sanchez reveals many unknown or forgotten facts about the worth and possibilities of dandelions. Gardeners used to pull the grass to make room for the dandelions! They were so prized for their medicinal properties by the Europeans sailing on the Mayflower that they packed dandelion seeds to bring to the New World. There are places that actually grow them as crops. In natural food stores, organic dandelion greens can be among the most expensive items! Every part of the plant – blooms, greens and roots – can be used with health and nutritional benefits, some of which include:

Rich source of vitamins A, B complex, C, D

One of the richest sources of vitamin K

Good source of minerals like potassium, calcium, manganese, and magnesium

More beta carotene than carrots, more iron than spinach

Great source of natural enzymes, antioxidants

Aid in detoxification, good for liver and kidney function

One palate consideration with dandelions is bitterness. The milky juice running throughout the plant contains sesquiterpenes, the bitter-taste culprit. The non-green flower parts do not contain the juice so you can avoid bitterness by using only the flowers. Some say younger greens are less bitter. Various cooking techniques can dilute or mitigate the flavor.

Be sure to harvest dandelions from ground not treated with chemical fertilizers, pesticides or herbicides. The whole plant can be picked or pulled. The Weed Popper tools make getting them out of the ground almost effortless, without bending or straining, and are great for all-natural, chemical-free control.

Make Dandelion Drinks

Dandelion wine is one of the better-known ways to enjoy dandelions’ benefits. You can also make dandelion coffee, tea and lemonade. Naturally caffeine-free, dandelion coffee is produced from roots harvested in the fall, dried, lightly roasted and ground. Tea can be made from any part of the plant resulting in a variety of flavors. Dandelion blossom tea is easily made by pulling the yellow petals from the flower, piling them in a coffee filter, closing the filter with a twist-tie and steeping in steaming hot water for a couple minutes. In summer, dandelion sun tea is easy to create with a quart of water and a few cups of blossoms. It is said this tea can help relieve pain from headaches, cramps, backaches, stomach aches and even depression. For dandelion lemonade, gather about two quarts of flowers, place in a gallon of room-temperature water, add fresh lemon juice, honey and chill. Strain, or leave in the flowers for an aesthetically-pleasing glass. You can also add the leaves to a raw/green smoothie mix for enhanced detoxification.

Put Dandelions in Your Dish

Dandelion leaves can be used like other greens. They are great served fresh with other greens in a salad topped with vinaigrette dressing, on a sandwich, or used in place of other herbs. Or, try them sautéed in oil with garlic, or with bacon, onion, brown sugar and vinegar. They are also great in soup. You can also reduce bitterness by steaming them separately for a couple minutes first.

The blooms are enormously fun to cook with, and bring a childlike quality to whatever they’re in: pancakes or fritters, cookies, even sorbet. Fresh dandelion jelly has a light, honey-like taste and is simple to make. Recipes for any of these ideas and much more, are readily available online. It is best for taste to use only the yellow petals, not the green base or stem.

Create Dandelion Crafts

Children see the beauty of dandelions more than any of us and inspire creativity. They are often the only flowers kids can pick for a bouquet without getting in trouble. Pressing dandelions and other wildflowers between wax paper in a thick book and then creating art with them is also a creative way to use dandelions. My children love to make dandelion jewelry. To weave a beautiful dandelion crown, pick a couple dozen flowers and leave the stems long. About 2” below the bloom cut a small slit with your fingernail or a knife. Loop another stem through the hole until the flower heads touch. Continue until the chain is long enough to go around your child’s head. At the end, twist the last stem around the first. Make a matching bracelet and ring, too. Or, craft a long, loose chain to hang as decoration for an outdoor party!

Next time you see yellow dots of dandelion popping up in your yard, reach for your Weed Popper and be inspired to do something different with these useful plants!

Tools List: WeedPopper Step and Twist, WeedPopper

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