Who does not know this perennial plant that loves to grow in our lawns and keeps spreading even though you are so behind that it cannot do exactly that? Dandelion, actually a very cute plant, very popular with pets such as hamsters and guinea pigs, also delicious in salads, but usually just deeply hated. How many of my kids’ T-shirts have been forever spoiled by dandelion milky sap stains from picking food for the guinea pig? I do not know it anymore. You can get these spots on your hands if you’re not careful. All in all, dandelion is a common plant that nobody really likes.
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The flowers of what we call weeds are a great pasture for bees. Dandelion honey is absolutely delicious, it has a very strong aroma. You can do all kinds of other things with dandelions, but we’ll get to that later.
The plant got its name from the jagged leaves, which are supposed to be reminiscent of dandelions. It takes a lot of imagination. Dandelion makes a lot more sense to me. Who hasn’t blown on the seeds and watched the small capsules hanging like a parachute? Dandelion is a daisy family. The flowers are bright yellow and appear mainly from May to June, but also much later and often earlier. Dandelion grows 10 to 60 cm high, but can shrink significantly and even fit under the lawnmower if they want to.
Dandelion is actually a wild herb. It thrives in meadows, along roadsides and unfortunately also in our home gardens. Dandelion is not demanding, actually grows everywhere and does not require any care at all. It’s not difficult at all to cultivate, but very difficult to get rid of, at least permanently. One reason for this is its taproot. This often reaches up to a meter and sometimes even further into the ground. If you can’t remove them completely, a new plant will always sprout from the residue.
Another reason is propagation by seeds, by self-seeding. It doesn’t take long for the faded bracts to reopen and the ray florets to fall off. The dandelion appears. Each seed has its own parachute that allows it to fly away when there is wind. When the seed meets suitable soil, a new dandelion plant will develop. Even if you have eradicated the plants in your own garden, the wind always brings new seeds with it and the cycle starts all over again.
How do you get rid of dandelions?
First of all, it must be ensured that dandelion plants present cannot form seeds. On the other hand, simply cutting off the flower heads as soon as they wither. In this way, propagation is prevented in the first place. I have to advise against using salt and vinegar. Although both remedies are often presented as natural remedies, they are not. The application is prohibited on paved or sealed surfaces anyway. It makes no sense in the bed, because neither salt nor vinegar distinguish between useful and weed plants. So it’s not just the dandelion that dies. Actually, both agents are mainly used on paths, driveways, terraces and similar areas, but they are not permitted there and should not be used, because there are no soil organisms which can degrade the substances. This is how they get into the soil and groundwater.
To get rid of dandelion permanently, the entire plant, down to the very last tip of the root, must be removed. The root must not tear off. To prevent this, use a weed puller. Weeding is also done after rain, because then the soil is looser and the roots don’t tear off as quickly. The weed puller is narrow and long, so you can get deep into the ground. It works best if you dig into the soil right next to the root and then loosen the soil a little by gently levering it in both directions. Then you grab the stem of the plant as far down as possible and carefully pull the root out of the ground.
New models, also with a long handle so that you can work standing up, have metal teeth on the sides. After piercing next to the root, a half turn is performed, whereby the entire plant is pulled out at the same time. It takes a bit of practice before it works properly, but then it’s very easy, easy on the back and not very strenuous.
Of course, you can also use herbicides against dandelion. I’m not a big fan of it though, not least because we have a small dog and she pokes her nose in and out everywhere. I live quite well with dandelions, we put them out. But if you prefer to use chemicals, you can of course do so. You have to know that more fully grown plants are suitable by spraying with herbicides because they simply have a larger surface to attack. However, many broad-spectrum herbicides also damage other plants, not to mention the environment. In the worst case, they even get into the groundwater.
Another disadvantage of chemical agents is that many plants have already developed resistance. The weeds just don’t respond to the chemicals anymore. This makes combat even more difficult. That’s why I would only choose herbicides as a last resort, only use them in exceptional cases.
The most laborious method
Sometimes you take over a garden whose lawn consists almost entirely of dandelions. It makes no sense to want to cut out the plants. At the end there is not much grass left. It is better, although very time-consuming, to remove the entire top 30 to 50 cm of soil. Roots and seeds must be sifted out. Since this causes soil to be lost, some must be filled up again. The leftovers that have been sifted out must not be thrown into the compost, otherwise the game will start over again. New lawn can be sown on the worked area. Although some dandelion plants will sprout again here because they are easily brought in, you can keep them in check by regularly pruning them out.
The use of dandelion
Dandelions can be used in many ways. It has been known for centuries that almost the entire plant can be eaten. In addition, dandelion has been used in medicinal medicine for a long time. It is important to know that the consumption of larger amounts can lead to symptoms of poisoning, but mainly in children. You should not suck the milky sap from the stalks. This can lead to contact allergies.
In the medicine
Dandelion is used especially in folk medicine and homeopathy. The leaves are used, i.e. the herb, the root or both together. The most important active ingredients are the bitter substances. They optimize digestion. The preparations are used for lack of appetite, feeling of fullness, flatulence, disorders in the area of bile flow and also extremely important for stimulating urination in inflammatory diseases and stone formation. Dandelion is also said to help with rheumatic diseases and eczema. As a tea infusion, dandelion has a blood-cleansing effect. You can use all parts of the plant for this. Dandelion should not be used if you suffer from gallstones or if the bile ducts are blocked.
As pet food
Rabbits, hamsters and guinea pigs love dandelion, it is a popular food plant. The leaves have a high nutrient content, give good green and sap fodder. It contains important bitter substances, vitamins, potassium, protein, fatty acids and minerals. Young animals should not eat too much dandelion, as the plant promotes the flow of bile and stimulates urination. This overstimulates kidney activity, which in turn flushes out many minerals. This often leads to deficiency symptoms, which manifest themselves in muscle weakness, muscle paralysis, cramps, muscle tremors or cardiac arrhythmias.
Of course, dandelion also serves as food for bees and bumblebees. In addition, hoverflies, butterflies, beetles and other insects use the large flowers. Caterpillars also use themselves, but on the leaves. Ultimately, the seeds are also used by bullfinches, goldfinches or linnets.
In the kitchen
Dandelion is particularly good as an addition to salads. Some gourmets swear by pure dandelion salad. The young leaves containing bitter substances are particularly suitable. You can also make pesto out of it. The flowers are great for making dandelion syrup or honey. Specialists even brew a delicious dandelion liqueur.
Dandelion can be added to green smoothies, either together with other wild herbs or with fruits and vegetables. Since the plant can be harvested almost all year round, it is ideal for anyone who prepares and drinks green smoothies fresh every day.
In the past, the long roots were roasted and ground and used as a coffee substitute, but this is no longer necessary today.
As a rubber substitute
Research is currently being carried out into the extent to which dandelion can be used as a potential raw material plant for rubber. They want to create an alternative to natural rubber, practically synthetic rubber. It was already being researched during the Second World War and the results were quite good.
Dandelion is a more interesting plant than it appears at first glance. I’m not too thrilled when it spreads indiscriminately on our lawn, but I can live with it quite well. Since I’m a big fan of green smoothies, one or the other plant ends up in my blender. I’ve even tried dandelion in a salad, but you can’t really taste the leaves in a wild herb salad. Everything tastes fresh, slightly bitter and delicious. We also had honey and it was delicious because it had a very strong taste. So dandelions are not just weeds and you don’t have to eradicate them. It is better to process the leaves, flowers and roots and make tasty and healthy things out of them.