Don't waste your dandelions

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

dandelionMany gardeners are horrified when dandelions pop up in their flower beds or vegetable plots and immediately set about eradicating them. Not an easy task to begin with as just a bit of root left behind, and there will more often then not be a bit left behind, guarantees a new dandelion plant. But why would anyone want to do that.

The Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) makes extremely good eating in itself and the entire plant can, in fact, be put to good use.

Taraxacum is a large genus of flowering plants in the family Asteraceae. They are native to Eurasia and North and South America, and two species, T. officinale and T. erythrospermum, are found as weeds worldwide. Both species are edible in their entirety. The common name dandelion, from French dent-de-lion, meaning "lion's tooth") is given to members of the genus, The name is derived from the serration of the leaves of the plant which resemble teeth of a big cat. Like other members of the Asteraceae family, they have very small flowers collected together into a composite flower head. Each single flower in a head is called a floret. Many Taraxacum species produce seeds asexually by apomixis, where the seeds are produced without pollination, resulting in offspring that are genetically identical to the parent plant.

All parts can be used. The leaves, when young, are a great salad vegetable and can replace rocket, aka rucola or, in America, arugula. When the leaves get older they get somewhat more bitter and then can be used in the same way as spring greens, best, however, sauteed with garlic.

The flowers can also be eaten, added to salads, and they can be made into wine, which is the better way to use them, probably. In addition to that they can make a dandelion flower marmalade and the roots can be roasted and made into coffee or steeped as an infusion, aka tea.

So, why would anyone want to remove and eradicate this plant, which is very difficult to do in the first place.

Aside from all the benefits that this plant has and uses it also makes for a great show of butter-yellow flowers in Spring (and often several times over during the year). So you get two things, color and food, from the same plant.

© 2014