Dandelion, invasive weed or medicinal wildflower?

Ah, the common dandelion. Scourge of some gardeners and considered a weed by many. By definition, you could certainly argue (if on a technicality only) that dandelion is a weed. To relegate it to the level of no more than a simple weed however would be a disservice in this author’s opinion. A weed by definition is simply a plant of resilience that shows up uninvited to the garden party and will most likely compete with nutrient resources once the gardener’s ball (or trowel?) has been crashed.

Dandelion is certainly a resilient plant and given the chance, like the morning glory, it can take over a plot in nearly no time. You may recall making a wish on a milkweed. In doing so, you’re either preserving a wildflower’s propagation or contributing to the delinquency of a kempt garden, depending on your perspective.

It’s scruffy but brilliant yellow mane and jagged, serrated leaves resembling teeth are the origin of it’s most common name, Dents de Lion (Teeth of the lion). So is dandelion an invasive weed or a medicinal wildflower? The answer isn’t quite so clear cut.

The USDA does not list Taraxum oficinale on it’s federal register of noxious weeds. A member of the Asteracea family (Daisy and her wildflower cousins). Despite all this the ragged, rascal of a medicinal root is often the bane of gardeners and farmers alike.

Dandelion is an important pollen and nectar producer. It can be a friend to the bee and beekeeper alike, especially in cool springs with spare blooms and blossoms to keep the honey bees happy till autumn’s chill. Dozens of insects favor the nectar and pollen of the dandelion so, kept in check, they may be excellent at insuring cross-fertilization.

Dandelion medicinal and culinary uses

Fresh dandelion leaf greens are sometimes added to spring salads and can also be split, sauteed and spiced to taste or cooked soft like spinach. The milky, mucilaginous plant is an excellent detoxifying agent. The tops and greens, once considered a wild endive, can be eaten raw, cooked or used medicinally fresh, dried or boiled in a soup as can the roots. Garlic and onions are often added to the nutritious garden interloper. Dandelion root coffee or herbal tea are also sometimes ingested as part of a liver cleanse or detox regimen.

Check out the Almanac’s excellent list of recipes for everything dandelion (from jellies and jams to wine and medicinal preparations): Dandelion recipes, a wonderful edible weed. 

Gifts from Earth carries several dandelion containing products, including our roasted, organic, cut and sifted dandelion powder.