SWEET AND DANDY
Words by Abi Himan.
Poor old dandelions. This much maligned little plant, with its broad squat leaves, difficult roots and fuzzy seeds which will spread if you so much as look at them, has been the leading villain in many a garden for quite some time. But what if we've got it all wrong? Increasingly people are starting to reconsider their feelings towards the dandelion, and it's easy to see why.
Whilst they're not all that special in the looks department (although their sunny little faces aren't exactly offensive either), it's what they bring to wherever it is they've planted themselves, and their sheer determination to remain and multiply, that makes them so impressive.
Dandelions are considered one of the most successful plants on the earth. They can grow in almost any conditions, do not need to be pollinated to produce seed, and the seeds themselves can travel up to 5 miles in the wind. Their deep, strong root system also makes sure that once they're establish, they're not going anywhere fast. Good start, right? It gets more impressive. Studies have shown that dandelions which are chopped by a lawnmower will grow closer to the ground next time in order to avoid its blades in the future!
So they're stubborn, probably part of the reason they've been so unwelcome in the past, but they're doing it for your own good. Dandelions are an early flowering pollinator and are absolutely packed with nectar, which is so important for the birds and bugs as they get back into action following the colder months.
I mentioned the roots. Dandelions grow taproots that extend up to 18 inches into the ground- if you've ever tried to dig one up you'll be familiar with these. A pain to dig up, yes, but taproots are actually really good at aerating dense soil, which your lawn will really benefit from, so really you might as well save yourself the bother and leave them in!
You can even eat them! The roots, leaves and flower are all edible, you're probably familiar with the chip shop classic dandelion & burdock (traditionally made with fermented dandelion and burdock roots), the leaves can be used as bitter salad greens and the flowers themselves make a nice snack in the form of a fritter too - simply dip them in a beer batter and shallow fry away (if you're going to try this, we recommend steering clear of ones your four-legged friends might have been near...)
They're also been used medicinally across the world since ancient times, aiding in the treatment of all manner of ailments.
So really, our war against dandelions has been pretty unfounded - all they want to do is benefit literally everything they touch. Let's make it the dandelions time to shine.
You don't have to go out and plant a bunch of them (seriously, they don't need your help), all we're saying is, rather than ripping it up the second you see one, join the dandelion revolution and leave them be.