Dandelions: The Unsung Hero

Up until about a year ago, the sight of dandelions coming up in my garden made me want to scream.  Their spiky green leaves and yellow flowers seemed to mock me, saying “We are weeds.  We have invaded your garden and we are never never going away.”  And then one day, as I was walking through the growing-beds of Tri Cycle Farms, the head farmer, Don Bennett,  pointed out a dandelion and asked me, “What do you see there?”

My answer was simple.  I frowned and bitterly remarked, “The scourge of all gardeners.”

Don laughed at me and responded, “You, like so many Americans, have been deceived. What you see here is one of natures most beneficial plants.  Every part of it is edible, it has medicinal qualities, and it is good for the other plants it grows around.” Dandelions are heroes.

I was shocked.  After all, dandelions were weeds right? But as I wrote in a previous post, many things we call weeds are beneficial to both people and gardens. I began to research into dandelions and quickly found out they were no exception.  The more I learned about them the more excited I became.  Dandelions are so cool that I’m considering making t-shirts.

4 Ways that Dandelions are Awesome

Danelion tea

Dandelion tea

1. Eat Me

Every part of a flowered dandelion is edible. The flowers can be used on salads for added color, the young leaves are great raw and are also salad material. The more mature leaves make a nutritious greens dish, and the root can be skinned and eaten like a turnip.  Not to mention the fact that you can also make tea, coffee, and a pesto spread with the plant.  A major bonus? Dandelions are dang nutritious. They are packed with vitamins A, B, C, and D, as well as minerals, such as iron, potassium, and zinc.

bigstock-Fresh-herb-selection-with-mort-1258817152. Medical Marvel

Dandelions are also often considered to have medicinal qualities.  Studies on animals show that dandelion may help normalize blood sugar levels and lower total cholesterol.  It is also a well documented appetite stimulant. Consumption of this weed has even been linked to improved digestion.

Taraxacum-officinalis-plant3. Garden Guru

It also turns out that instead of digging up all these tenacious sprouts from your garden, you may want to encourage them to grow. Dandelions have deep roots  (pictured right) – which is what makes them so hard to remove – but this also leads to many benefits for the soil. The deep roots break up densely packed soils allowing for more water and air flow, which is healthy for soil ecosystems.  These roots also bring up nutrients to the surface, benefiting plants like tomatoes which have shallower roots.  Even the shoots you do pull up can be useful to your garden.  The leaves of the dandelions are nutrient rich and can make great compost or mulch for your lawn and garden.

Pollination_Bee_Dandelion4. Pollinator Pals

Dandelions are major attractions of pollinators and lady bugs. They flower frequently and are therefore a regular source of food to bees, butterflies, and moths. This is great because 1. anything that helps bees is good for our earth, 2. more pollinators brings more biodiversity, which is a major indicator of habitat health, and 3. the pollinators will also pollinate the other plants you are growing, like watermelons! Who doesn’t want more watermelons?

AREN’T DANDELIONS AMAZING? If you are interested in buying a shirt, leave a comment below!