9 Things to Do With Dandelions


Dandelions in a field.

For most people in the USA – and increasingly in other Western countries -- buying a home means buying a yard, which means commencing a lifelong war on dandelions. Television commercials, magazines and billboards promise and advertise all manner of poison sprays, tools and even teams of men to rid your area of these useful flowers, promising to make the space around your home as blank and featureless as Astro-turf.

The War on Dandelions

Such obsessions appeared quite recently; no one, as far as I know, hated dandelions until the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and the appearance of a world-changing development - the suburb. Before the mid-1800s, “lawns” usually referred to sporting fields or sheep meadows; most people didn’t need one, as they were farmers already surrounded by fields. The Industrial Revolution, though, created a newly prosperous class who wanted homes in the country, and railroads allowed them to commute – a new concept – to their businesses in the city. Rolling in new wealth but lacking Old World respectability, most modeled their miniature fiefdoms after the estates of English lords, right down to the manicured fields.

By 1921, a delightfully hysterical book called “A Lawn Without Dandelions” reported that homeowners across America were trying make their grounds as geometric and seamless as that of their business rivals down the street, and dandelions had become their chief nemesis. Calling the dandelions the “Yellow Peril” and challenging homeowners to a “Survival of the Fittest,” the pamphlet said the job of getting rid of them was “not for a boy, or for Mr. Shiftless, but for a he-man with all his senses alert.” Almost a century later, many homeowners feel the same.

Dandelions as a Crop

Not every homeowner has a lawn, of course - a few suburbanites I know have turned some of their property into food gardens, turning both grass and dandelions alike into tomatoes and collards. Good for them – but the dandelions can also be food, and growing uncultivated in places you can’t easily plant crops. Rather than fight them, you could make them work for you.

Unlike many wild foods that take a long search, dandelions are found in almost every wood and meadow. And while many wild plants require special training to identify and discriminate from similar-looking poisonous plants, dandelions can be readily identified by every schoolchild. When my daughter was little I would occupy her by bidding her to gather baskets of dandelions for me to play with in the kitchen, promising her a penny for every flower plucked.

Monika Kruger
5/1/2018 9:51:22 AM

In the recipe for the wine, you said 1.5 liters of sugar? Sugar is normally not liquid. How much sugar are you talking about and can you use sugar substitutes? I am diabetic and have problems with large amount of sugars.

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