Dandelions are cheerful yellow flowers that bloom most of the American summer. They also drive people who like immaculate green lawns crazy. They spread quickly. The flowers change into what look like balls of cotton, with hundreds of fluffy little flyaway seeds that can be carried away in the slightest breeze. They can quickly turn a green lawn into a patch of bright yellow.
The names come from the French dent de lion, meaning lion’s teeth, which refers to the shape of the leaves.
But instead of bombing the weeds with some herbicide, an owner of such a lawn might just consider eating them. The leaves are nutritious greens, and can be used in salads, or steamed, or used in a stir fry. The flowers are also edible. Dandelion lovers can make dandelion wine, which is said to be tasty with a delicate flavor.
Dandelion tea is a folk medicine favorite. The tea acts as a diuretic, and may have a calming influence. There are a lot of claims made for dandelion teas and extracts, all medicinally yet to be substantiated. There are claims that it reduces inflammation, helps digestion, lowers blood pressure and even reduces cancer risk.
There’s a certain irony in dandelion tea maybe lowering the risk of cancer. The herbicides used to get rid of dandelions to assure a deep green lawn increase cancer risk. It would be easier to go pick some dandelions greens for a stir fry and keep the herbicides in the garage. Who needs a green lawn, anyway?
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If I remember correctly (and I won’t swear to this), they were used as a dye as well.