3 Surprisingly ingenious uses for dandelions

Nick Moyle and Rich Hood

Dandelions are one of the most troublesome weeds for gardeners. But rather than cuss these invaders, we choose to embrace the tooth-leaved lawn-lover...

Dandelions have a list of uses that extend way beyond most of the plants we choose to grow. And here are just some of them:

 

Eat it!

The whole of the dandelion is edible, from roots to flowers. For eating purposes it’s the young leaves that are the most rewarding, with a mild bitter flavour that makes them a great addition to salads. 

Dandelions are considered such a fine leaf that they even appear in some seed mixes known as ‘
“mesclun”—a green salad from Provence that may also include chervil, endives and a variety of lettuce leaves.

If the raw leaves are a bit too bitter for your liking, then try adding them to a stir fry with a few dandelion flowers for extra colour. We’ve even heard that battered dandelion flowers are worth making, although we’ve yet to try these ourselves.

 

Drink it!

Perhaps even better than using dandelions as a food is the list of drinks that can be made from the plant. 

The easiest and most obvious concoction is dandelion tea. Simply pour hot water over leaves or flowers and allow them to steep for a while. The resulting brew is said to offer numerous health benefits that include detoxing the liver, reducing inflammation and improving stomach health (although, as with most herbal remedies, there is doubt over some of the claims). Drying the dandelions helps intensify the flavours and allows you to store the tea beyond their growing season.

If coffee is more your thing then it’s the roots you’ll need. Wash them thoroughly and chop into small chunks before slowly roasting and you’ll have a substitute for coffee beans, ready to be ground and brewed.

Dandelions are also a great ingredient for home-made booze makers. The leaves have a long history of being used to flavour beer and have been snapped up by brewers in times of hop shortages, while the flowers make one of the best country wines there is. 

Tradition dictates that flower picking for this purpose is carried out at 1pm on St George’s Day (April 23). The fermented booze will then be at its best when the blooms start emerging the following year (if you can wait that long).

 

Drive it!

Perhaps the most interesting potential use of dandelions is currently being explored by German tyre manufacturer Continental. 

Dandelion roots contain a natural rubber which the company has called Taraxagum (the botanical name for dandelion is taraxacum) and they’ve been conducting experiments to extract this substance and turn it into tyres, with successful trials already having taken place. 

The hope is that this technology could be a sustainable solution for the current environmentally destructive rubber used in tyre production and will see fields dedicated to the planting of dandelions, rather than them simply showing up uninvited.