Dandelion Dilemmas


The dandelion is surely a plant to be reckoned with – whether you see it as wild flower, weed or herbal pharmacopoeia. You certainly can’t beat them for brightness. Or for persistence.

When I’m wearing my gardener’s hat, which is mostly, their presence in and around the vegetable plots infuriates me, and I gouge them up as soon as I spot them. Yet this is probably counter productive. I’ve read that the plant’s pugnacious tap root thrusts down through unpromising soil and unlocks nutrients from below. A huge advantage then. Also, the roots, if you do dig them up, can be roasted and ground to make a coffee substitute, and though it may not match up to your favourite Arabica, will at least give your liver a good clean out.

The leaves, popularly used in French salads (and inspiring the original name ‘lion’s tooth’ dent de lion) act on the urinary system, hence the many other much ruder old country names: Jack-piss-the-bed, Tiddle-beds, Old man’s clock to mention only a few.

But old country lore aside, scientific studies have shown that the plant is bursting with nutrients: minerals, vitamins and antioxidants. Even the flowers are edible, though apparently tasting best before they open. Well! I did once see a recipe for dandelion flower fritters, and they certainly looked very pretty. Perhaps instead of casting them as villains of the plot, I should welcome them as a most useful, free and therapeutic crop. As with most things in life, much depends on your chosen perspective.

Bright Square #25

38 thoughts on “Dandelion Dilemmas

  1. Ah lovely article Tish, I know only too well how prevalent and stubborn the dandelion plants are, my garden is full of them. I love them since childhood and I do feel guilty when I take some out of my vegetable plots but needs must sometimes. Right now they are giving a lovely show of bright flowers and the bees love them. I actually like the taste of the leaves, very bitter – good for the heart I guess.

    1. They can take over, Agnes, there’s no two ways about it. But, yes, they are certainly giving us a bright show just now. And, as you say, good for the bees.

  2. Some interesting facts. I would not like the so-called coffee if it is anything like that Camp stuff you used to get in the sixties. And I haven’t tried the leaves in salads, though I can see that they might taste like rocket, but flower fritters? I’ll let you try that one first. My lawn is full of them, and daisies. Make a pretty sight and whilst I have a lawn I’ll let them be. If only they weren’t such thugs I am sure we would love them more as the flowers are very pretty.

  3. Tish, your pictures are lovely. I’ve heard of using dandelions in salads, but I didn’t know they came with such high health recommendations. I enjoyed the informative article. 🙂

  4. Yes I have a lot and leave them because you never know when you might “need” them. I also have lot of plantain which is kept for the same reason. Of course it make my garden look weedy.

  5. Cindy and I eat fresh young dandelion leaves from our yard in salads (gotta check to make sure they aren’t too bitter first), and my parents used to make dandelion wine when I was a kid.

  6. T and I have an ongoing “discussion” about dandelion. He mercilessly rips them out, while I’m more than happy to leave them in the lawn at least. I haven’t eaten any past of the plant, but perhaps I should. T might like it and adopt a less genocidal attitude.

    1. Once you get into ‘kill’ mode, it can be hard to re-educate inclinations, and especially if you’ve decided on a neat green lawn. A dandelion lawn might be a wonder to behold though 🙂

      1. I’ve been on a mission to do this since I did a garden tour in 2019 and met an elderly woman who grows enough food to eat and trade on a (for NZ) tiny suburban plot. She is so inspiring.

      2. That is truly an achievement. I think there’s a huge amount to be said for suburban growing – a little more shelter and warmth for one thing. I’m also imagining a traditional kitchen garden set up, where crops are mixed up. The best way to fool the pests and to build up fertility.

      3. And I haven’t actually tried it myself. Still brainwashed by father and grandfatherly dictates of discreet species rows. It really is nonsense. I must give mixed planting a go in one of my big beds.

      4. I lost my raised beds to a garden revamp and ended up chucking plants and seeds in every bit of border, etc I could. It’s been great; though what I planted was a bit limited so it will be interesting when I get the newly made beds up and running.

  7. They make me want to weave them into coronets, but have you ever eaten them? I really tried. I’m told you need to get them when they first come up out of the ground — which I did,. Bitter!

    I’m told it makes a pretty good wine too, but given how bitter it is, I have trouble believing it. But I like them anyway. If all my weeds are as non-destructive and attractive and the dandies, I’d be a happy camper. Most of our weeds like to strangle everything they get near.

    Meanwhile, dandelions are bright. They mix well with the purple Mayflowers and violets that come up every year rather than grass. To me, dandelions ARE spring! Even when nothing else comes up, when i see them, I know the season has finally come.

    1. I’m happy to eat the very young leaves, and I quite like herbal ‘tea’ made from the dried leaves. Not sure I’d want to chomp on the flowers though. Something about the presumed texture. It’s strange the prejudices we find we have.

  8. I now welcome and encourage them in the garden, and if there’s one I am really not happy with I will now move them rather than destroy, although it does take quite a bit effort to get to the bottom of those roots!!

  9. They certainly are persistent. Three days, at the most, after I mow the lawn, there they are, laughing at me. 😀 I’d prefer to turn the entire lawn into a garden and not have to mow at all, but a renter’s lot is not a happy one. 🙂

    1. We got rid of our small lawns at home, but I still have paths to mow around my allotment plots. And yes, 3 days at most, the dandelions are back and grinning up at me.

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