Saturday, May 03, 2008

Dents de Lion

Dandelions look so pretty in the meadows don't they, and in the hedgerows so why don't they look like that in my garden? Every year we have a running battle with them as they appear in the lawns, in the flower beds and then in pots and raised beds. They do say that a plant is a weed only if it is the wrong place. So these dandelions in my garden; are they weeds or just in the wrong place?

The word Dandelion may have originated from the medieval Latin Dents Lioness or the French Dent de Lion, lion's teeth. Some people say that the name comes from the jagged leaves, others from the long root. When I was a child we would blow the dandelion seeds or clocks and make a wish. The resulting little white fluffy seeds that floated delicately on the breeze we used to call fairies. Although we don't find the Dandelion useful in our gardens, unless we keep rabbits or guinea pigs, it does have it's uses both medicinal and culinary.

When you look at both the flowers and the 'clocks' they are very pretty but still we want to banish them from our gardens. I must admit I like to mow them off the lawn and take them out of the borders and flower beds but we do leave them at the back of the trees and allow them to stay put in the grass around the raised vegetable beds. The plants survive because they are hardly ever attacked by pest or diseases.

According to 'Jekka's Complete Herb Book' (Jekka McVicar 1994) medicinally Dandelions can be used as a remedy for kidney, liver and digestive problems, the leaves are a strong diuretic. The sap from the stalks can be rubbed into corns, warts or verrucas and the flowers can be boiled with sugar to make a cough mixture.

The leaves of the Dandelion can be used in salads and was often used for cleansing the blood as well as the digestive system, the leaves being quite high in certain vitamins. The root can be chopped, dried and roasted to make Dandelion Coffee and wine can be made with the flower heads. According to Mollie Harris in her book Country Wines (Alan Sutton Publishing 1991) the wine made with Dandelion flowers is a lovely golden colour and as well as being a tonic wine it can be used as a table wine too. She advises using flowers picked on a warm day and that St George's Day, 23rd April, is considered the best day to pick them if it isn't raining, but, she advises, never pick them from a dusty road side.

Perhaps we should give Dandelions a bit of a chance in our gardens instead of trying to wipe out every one? But, oh, no, I swear there are hundreds more in my lawn than were there yesterday - I'm off to get the mower out.


  1. Personally, I've never had a problem with dandelions, but my parents hated them! As kids, we used to say that if you put a dandelion under your chin, and your chin glows yellow, you like butter. Where on earth did that come from?

  2. Sarah, we used to do that too but with buttercups, not sure where it comes from. We used to sit on the school field and 'test' each other with the flowers. We also used to make daisy chains and drape them round our necks - our school field was full of buttercups and daisies as well as dandelions :)