Before you start to kill off the dandelions in your yard, you’ll want to read about all the different benefits that they have to offer. You may be surprised to find out that dandelions are wonderful for the environment, and that they're used to make a bunch of tasty treats in the kitchen.
First Food for Wildlife
Dandelions are fantastic because they are one of the first foods available to bees after a long winter. On top of that, they are also great for other insects and birds in your ecosystem. Of course, you shouldn't feel that you have to keep them around just for the wildlife — which is why you'll be happy to hear that dandelions are also great for people.
Dandelion Green Salad
The dandelion greens you see popping up around the flower are actually pretty tasty when eaten young. Not only are they edible, but they offer some great health benefits. More specifically, these leaves are full of essential vitamins and antioxidants. Did you know that you can get more beta carotene out of these leaves than you can out of carrots? They are also quite high in vitamin K. Not too bad for a pesky weed!
Dandelion Root Drink
Dandelion roots are used in a number of different ways. Some people dry them and grind them up to create a caffeine-free coffee substitute for themselves. This drink is said to have an earthy flavor. Other people make it into a tea that helps with digestion.
Versatile Dandelion Flowers
Like the roots, the flowers of the dandelion can also be be used in a variety of ways. Some people like to make jelly out of them, which itself is said to taste similar to honey. If you’re not a fan of jelly, there are also recipes available to turn your dandelion flowers into a sweet and natural syrup for waffles and pancakes. The best part is that this syrup isn't overwhelmingly sweet like some store-bought brands.
Alternatively, you can use dandelion flowers to make wine. To do so, you just need to loosely fill a gallon container with the flowers. Next, add some raisins, lemon zest, and water to the container. You’ll have to let this mixture ferment over a few months, but then it’ll time for some wine.
There are also quite a few dandelion-based baked good recipes out there that you can experiment with. These yield tasty treats like dandelion cookies and dandelion blossom cake.
The kitchen isn’t the only place where you can use dandelion flowers. They can also be used to make lotion, lip balm, and salves. Some find dandelion lotion to be a particularly good source of relief when it comes to sore muscles. Historically, dandelion was used as a diuretic and to treat eye inflammation.
Finally, the flowers of dandelions can be used to create a natural dye. This dye is perfect for people that homestead with sheep or goats and want to dye their wool naturally. However, it can also be used on any other fabric.
Picking the Right Dandelions
If you’re planning on using your neighborhood dandelions for cooking, it’s important to be selective about the ones you use. You'll want to make sure that they haven’t been treated with any kinds of chemicals before picking them. In addition, you may want to stay away from dandelions near roadways or other areas where there may be increased air pollution exposure.
It's also important to think about what parts of the dandelion you want to use. If you plan on eating the greens, you’ll want to get them early in their growth cycle. This is because the longer the leaves are left growing, the more bitter they become. For those that plan on using dandelions for a more medicinal purpose, fall is typically the best time to harvest — and you’ll want to remove the roots carefully when you do. This is best done on a rainy day when the soil is moist.
One final note when it comes to picking your dandelions is to make sure that it’s permissible in your area. You’re okay in your yard, but if you go elsewhere, you’ll have to ask for permission before picking any. It may be necessary to check and see if there are any foraging laws in your town if you plan on picking them on public lands.
This short list outlines just a few of the potential uses for what many consider a worthless weed. Don’t reach for your weed killer before exploring all of the different options you have when it comes to using dandelions. This weed’s sunny disposition is sure to brighten up your kitchen, health, and beauty routine.