Sunday, May 17, 2015

Dandelion Wine, Coffee and Salad

Ella Wheeler Wilcox once wrote: "A weed is but an unloved flower." If there is any plant which this quote applies to, it is most definitely the dandelion. People queue up in garden shops in order to buy the latest weed-killing chemicals and grass fertilisers in order to have what they may see as the perfect lawn. Many who don't use chemicals to remove weeds will get out their lawn mower as soon as they see the bright yellow flowers pop up in their grass. While many may rush to get rid of dandelions before they spread, there are those who appreciate dandelions for what they bring in the early summer months.

The bees, pollen beetles, hoverflies, beetles, and even some birds, don't see dandelions as weeds at all. Pass by any patch of grass where they haven't been cut down and you will see that they are teeming with wildlife. Dandelions, as well as other flowers which have been categorised as weeds, are essential in providing insects and birds with food from late March to May.

Dandelions are stubborn plants. They spread quickly, their roots are difficult to dig up, and they seem to be able to grow just about anywhere. It's a good thing they are so stubborn because of their importance to wildlife. Despite how much humans may dislike them or try to get rid of them, their determination to grow in spite of people's dislike for them is part of what makes them so great. Regardless of how much people try and destroy them, they manage to make themselves available to wildlife looking for food.

Before dandelions were seen as weeds, they were used for medicinal purposes to treat skin conditions and poor circulation. While the dandelion may no longer be widely used for its healing properties, it is making a comeback as an edible plant. It is increasingly popular to use the leaves in salads, to make wine out of the flowers, and to make a coffee-like drink out of roots. Whether you are going to try out the dandelion's culinary possibilities or let wildlife feast on its delights, consider postponing their removal from your back garden or lawn. The bees will be grateful.

This post first appeared in the Organic Ilford Newsletter.


  1. Funnily enough I had this exact same thought just the other day. The term 'weed', it would seem to me, is totally subjective. It's as if someone just declared one day which plant would and wouldn't be labelled as such. I guess I find it baffling just what it is that people find so repulsive about the likes of the dandelion, it's a beautiful, and as you mention extremely important and useful plant.

  2. When the grass in our garden hasn't been cut for a while the dandelions are quite tall. A couple of days after it has been cut, they flower at about an inch or two high. Clever, eh?