by Valerie Loseth
Very soon we will be witness to the arrival of those pesky dandelion flowers. In the grass, along the road growing in the cracks in the sidewalk, these masters of survival will be popping up everywhere. Whether you love them or hate them, everyone young or old is familiar with the sunny yellow blossoms and the plant with the jagged leaves.
Canadians spend millions of dollars every year trying to eradicate these yellow beauties from our lawns and gardens, but did you know there are several benefits to actually allowing these weeds to grow and thrive?
It is believed that the dandelion seed was brought over by the Europeans on the Mayflower as a medicinal and culinary ingredient. The use of dandelion for medicinal purposes can be traced back thousands of years to Egyptian, Greek, Roman, and Chinese cultures. Dandelion plants are used by herbalists today to treat many conditions such as anemia, kidney disease, jaundice, arthritis, respiratory infections, and gallstones and more commonly as a diuretic.
Nutritionally speaking dandelions are more beneficial to your diet than most vegetables in your garden. Dandelions are full of antioxidants high in Vitamin A and C. Like tomatoes, kale and spinach, dandelion greens are full of calcium and protein. They are low in calories and rich in Iron. Organic stores, health stores and farmer’s markets carry a full line of dandelion products from the fresh leaves, dried leaf capsules, ground root powder, teas, wine and so much more.
If you’re going to forage for your own supply, make sure you gather young plants, before the flower heads arrive from undisturbed land that has not been treated with herbicides, pesticides or other contaminants. Stay away from industrial sites or urban waste lots.
Dandelions can be of benefit to your lawn. Their deep tap roots help break up hard packed soil which helps aerate the earth so nutrients water and oxygen can get to the roots of the surrounding plants. They also help pull calcium from deep down in the soil up to a level that makes it available for other plants to use, so essentially they help fertilize your lawn.
The safest and most environmentally friendly way to remove dandelions from your lawn is to remove the plants by hand, using specific tools that help remove the long tap root. Picking the flowers off will help contain the spread and keeping your lawn healthy by yearly aerating and top dressing with compost will help keep the grass strong and choke out any weed seeds that try to establish a presence.
Ultimately if you can’t win the battle, then enjoy the benefits of those weeds, with the sunny disposition and learn to live with them and love them.