“Dear common flower that grow’st beside the way
Fringing the dusty road with harmless gold
‘Tis the spring’s largess which she scatters now
To rich and poor alike with lavish hand
Though most hearts never understand
To take it at God’s value, but pass by
The offered wealth with unrewarded eye.”
James Russell Lowell (in Brown 1970)
Originally an imported food brought here by European Settlers into North America, the Common Dandelion serves as both food and medicine. It is one of the earliest bloomers in spring, leaves are the tenderest then, and suitable for making fresh salads and soups. The roots can be roasted and made into a very tasty coffee substitute. Dandelion wine is made from the flower tops.
Dandelion is very nutritious. According to the USDA, dandelion greens contain Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Potassium, Sodium, Zinc , Copper, Manganese, Selenium, Vitamin C, Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin, Pantothenic acid, Vitamin B-6, Folate, Choline, Vitamin A, Beta Carotene, Alpha Carotene, Beta Cryptoxanthin, Lutein + zeaxanthin, Vitamin E, and Vitamin K, and protein.
Health Canada lists Dandelion leaves and roots to be used as a mild laxative, to increase bile flow, treat digestive upset, and used as a diuretic. The roots have also been indicated to be used for eczema. Health Canada warns “Consult a health care practitioner/health care provider/health care professional/doctor/physician prior to use if you have liver or gall bladder diseases, and/or intestinal obstruction, or if the symptoms you are treating persist or worsen. Do not use this product if you have heart disease, high or low blood pressure, kidney or liver disorder, diabetes or edema (swelling of hands, face and feet) or are taking products containing diuretics”
There are many birds in North America that eat the seeds of Dandelion. Here in Alberta, they are eaten by Pine Siskins and Finches as well as Chipmunks and Mice. Both Black and Grizzly bears eat the flower heads as a desert, for they are a sweet treat for them. Although not as nutritious for Bees, it is a food source in early spring when they are hungry and waiting for their favorite flowers to bloom.
With all of these uses, it is hard to fathom why there is such a war on dandelions here in the west. Check out our Dandelion soup recipe here.