When my firstborn son was very young, I took him out in the backyard and showed him a dandelion¹ gone to seed. We called ’em puff-puffs. He was awed. He was excited. We’d pick up one after another and blow them (if a neighbor had seen us, he might’ve been aggravated). The floating white parasols were a joy to see.
The dandelion flower is a remarkably bright yellow, symmetrical, even beautiful. The flower can be used to make… you guessed it… dandelion wine! Strange as it is, an older kid in high school once saw me on the road, hopped out of his car (drunk as a skunk) and poured some dandelion wine on my head. Ever since, I’ve wanted to try the stuff.
The white fluffy “blowball” consists of seeds attached to a stalk topped by a collection of fibers called a “pappus”. They resemble grains of brown rice attached to white parasols; they are quite beautiful. The seeds can travel a goodly distance to infest a neighbor’s lawn.
The leaves can be prepared as salad greens, or cooked greens. I imagine most guys would rather eat them cooked. As a salad, it is common to serve them with lemon juice, olive oil, and a touch of salt.
The stems, which contain a kind of latex sap, are considered possibilities for the manufacture of a kind of rubber. In fact, the stems are probably the only part one would not wish to serve as food of some kind (but be careful they are free of dog pee).
Dandelion roots can be used like the roots of chickory, to make a coffee substitute or extender. In fact, the coffee substitute is commercially available.
Lastly, note of this image of dandelion pollen. Is this pollen of any particular interest? Interestingly, the pollen of dandelions is considered relatively innocuous, that is, not a serious problem for hay fever sufferers. Although bees love dandelion pollen, it is for the bee like sweets are for humans, an enjoyable food, limited in nutrition.
There are many who tout the medicinal advantages of these golden beauties. Of course, when one “surfs the Internet”, it is advisable to “weed out” untrustworthy sources.
The video we include here appears authoritative and entertaining, although this writer does not favor the introduction, which endorses evolution.
A Giant Dandelion? No, Showy Goatsbeard
Like a giant daffodil, the showy goatsbeard² produces a seed blowball. Closeby, along the railroad tracks, grew some goatsbeard. My son, Michael, already familiar with the classic dandelion, upon first seeing showy goatsbeard, gleefully cried out, “Oh Bo!”
¹ Although there are a variety of dandelions, the one most commonly referenced is Taraxacum officionale.
² The showy goatsbeard (Tragopogon pratensis) has the additional common names: Jack-go-to-bed-at-noon and meadow salsify.
Note: You might also enjoy Pilewort the Wildflower – Weed: Practical Value?
- Iowa State University – Agronomy: Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: The Dandelion
- Pollen Library.com: Dandelion: Taraxacum
- The American Bee Journal: So Much Pollen, So Little Nutrition