You see them everywhere in late spring. Fields of yellow blossoms waving in the sun and warmth of coming summer. The word must be out. Bees need dandelions. More and more people are allowing at least one crop of dandelions to gracefully age into white-headed ladies before casting their future into the air and dying.
It’s a good thing for pollinators, but dandelions are also good in many other ways as well.
If you are harvesting dandelion root, you will see earthworms gather around dandelion roots for it is a natural humus producer.
Humus with one “M” is not the chickpea-kind you eat with fresh veggies. Humus is soil with an ecosystem and is the ultimate goal of most people who grow. Of course, I am not going to plant dandelions in the garden, they proliferate on their own quite quickly. But I do appreciate dandelions for their benefits.
My favorite uses are soap and dying, but I have eaten their young leaves. It’s taken a few years, but my husband now allows them to grow freely. In many cultures, the herb Dandelion was more highly valued than a green lawn.
While I realize I revisit the Dandelion every spring, it’s important information in light of the ever-declining bee population. Dandelions are a common member of the sunflower family and there are about 100 species. Like sunflowers, you may have noticed dandelions open with the sun and close down overnight to sleep. The serrated leaves reminded someone of a lion, hence the French name “dent de lion” or lion’s tooth. I have never been that close to a lion so I cannot attest to that description.
Dandelions are survivors and spread like wildfire. They do not need to be pollinated to form seeds to survive even though insects and bees consume the nectar or seed of these yellow beauties.
Because I love folklore and such, you should recognize the three celestial bodies of the dandelion. The flower represents the sun, the puff ball resembles the moon and the seeds floating away on a summer breeze (in North Dakota, it’s flat line 100-mile-an-hour wind) represent the stars in the sky.
Also, three parts of the dandelion are useful and edible. The leaves can be eaten when young as bitter greens in salads or frittatas. Also, the leaves make good tea. The root can be dried and ground and used as a coffee substitute. Green leaves can be mixed with basil and made into pesto with a healthy kick.
Blossoms can be dipped in egg white and fried or taken off the bitter pod and sprinkled over salad and such. Yes, that’s a lot of work. But if you have small children, they are attracted to the dandelion anyway. What mother hasn’t received a dandelion bouquet in her lifetime.
Sue B. Balcom
Writing, or maybe talking, comes naturally to me and under the guidance of a great newspaper editor I have acquired skills that led me to author four books.