When I was about four years old, I visited my grandfather’s house in Kansas. One of the various things I remember about that trip was watching as he did yard work. He fussed a bit over a dandelion, and then he gave up. “There’s no point in pulling them,” he said. “You have to get the whole root, or it just grows back. And you never get the whole root.” I had no idea why he would want to pull the plant.
I have wondered about dandelions many times since then. For years, I used to walk to and from school, along a street with what looked to be a vacant lot or a large dandelion garden. When they were in bloom, it was gorgeous. When they had gone to seed, it was still gorgeous, though in a different way. When it was just green leaves, it was certainly no worse than grass. I told my father about it. I said I thought dandelions must have been planted on the lot, because there was nearly nothing else there. He was scandalized.
Recently, someone suggested that Green Energy Times run an article about dandelions because of their benefits and value. Clearly there are benefits. There are a lot of uses for dandelions in traditional medicine, a lot of claims, and not nearly enough research. Perhaps we could talk Larry Plesent into writing on the subject. But in the meantime, I can clearly say the non-medical uses for dandelions are many.
Crown to root tip, every part of a dandelion is edible and nutritious. As I think of this, more images from my youth appear. In one neighborhood we lived in, women would walk down the street, stepping into yards to harvest the flowers. I believe they were probably using them to make dandelion wine.
Dandelion roots can be dried, optionally roasted, and made into dandelion coffee. Chinese medicine finds many benefits from use of the whole plant. The leaves are delicious in salad in early spring, though they are a little bitter once the flowers appear. In earlier times, aristocrats thought of them as a delicacy appropriate to be added to their sandwiches. The leaves can be cooked like spinach. The flowers have been used as an ingredient for tea, wine, syrups, and flavoring. And by the way, Goldfinch love dandelion seeds.
I think of dandelions gifts of nature to be cherished. With no effort at planting, weeding, or tending, they are free for the harvest.