Masters of survival. Dandelions are, quite possibly, the most successful plants that exist. They are fast growers. Their sunny yellow flowers transform from bud to seed in a matter of days. But one secret they hold - they live a long time. One individual plant can live for years. So the dandelion lurking in a corner of the playground might be older than the children running past it. A symbol of the true perseverance of nature.
Often regarded as a weed, these bright flowers are related to sunflowers. And if you let them into your garden more, they can become a unique and nutritious addition to your wellness.
1. They are nutritious
From root to flower, dandelions are incredibly nutritious plants. They’re loaded with vitamins, minerals, and fibre. Their greens can be eaten cooked or raw and contain impressive amounts of vitamins A, C, E, K and folate and smaller amounts of other B vitamins.
They have more vitamin A than spinach, more vitamin C than tomatoes, and are a powerhouse of iron, calcium and potassium. So, they are a plant worthy of a spot within the veg plot.
They’re easy to get into your diet too. The roots can be ground into a (quite tasty) coffee substitute, and the flowers can be made into wine (yes, you read that correctly). Check out our blog recipe on making vegan dandelion shortbread biscuits.
2. They keep your body healthy
Ever wondered where they got their name from? After the French dent de lion, meaning ‘lion’s tooth’, referring to its toothed leaves. Leaves that helped to heal so many ailments - dandruff, toothache, sores, fevers, rotting gums, weakness, lethargy, and even depression.
Why? Because these vibrant flowers are full of powerful antioxidants that are important for neutralising and preventing the negative effects of free radicals in the body.
They also contain high levels of the antioxidant beta-carotene - proving strong protection against cellular damage and oxidative stress. Herbalists still use dandelions to treat skin conditions, asthma, low blood pressure, poor circulation, ulcers, constipation, colds and hot flushes.
3. They’re great for kids
There’s nothing more satisfying than watching a child in a field full of dandelions. They can’t get bored. Remember your relationship with them as a child? Blowing on dandelion puffballs to tell you if it’s time to go home, how many years until you’ll get married, and of course, if you catch a flying dandelion seed or ‘fairy’, you can make a wish. Not to mention their seed head’s startling symmetric and complex makeup.
They taste great too. Raw dandelion flowers taste sweet and buttery. They’re a sneaky way of driving vitamins and minerals into little tummies. Bake them in shortbread biscuits or ask them to help you make some honey.
4. They help bees, butterflies and birds (and your lawn)
Dandelions are very important for bees - and very often are their first meal of the year. It’s peak flowering time is from late March to May, when many bees and other pollinators emerge from hibernation. Each flower consists of up to 100 florets -loaded with nectar and pollen. This early, easily available source of food is a lifesaver for pollinators in spring.
Bees are not their only visitors. Hoverflies, beetles and butterflies all rely on dandelions for food. Whilst goldfinches and house sparrows eat the seed. Imagine the wildlife spectacle you’re missing out on when you punish them with the mower.
Dandelions are good for your lawn too. Their wide-spreading roots help to loosen hard-packed soil which reduces erosion. They’re important lawn fertilisers. As they’re able to draw nutrients that are buried deep in the soil, like calcium, it makes them available to other plants. Their roots sink deeper over the years and can go down 15 feet.
5. They have their roots in history
Dandelions were once world-famous for their beauty, became the subject of many poems, and were one of the most common and beloved garden flowers in Europe. In Japan, whole horticultural societies formed to enjoy the beauty of dandelions and to develop exciting new varieties for gardeners.
For millennia, dandelions were prescribed for every ailment from warts to the plague. They were popular with ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans, and have been used in Chinese traditional medicine for thousands of years.
Hopefully, this roundup has inspired you to hate them a little less (or, love them a little more). No Mow May is here so why not join us in giving your lawn some freedom for the month? You’ll be rewarded with the wonderful sight of bees, butterflies and beetles feasting on the flowers. You may even be tempted to pick a few for our Dandelion Shortcrust biscuits recipe.