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For whatever reason, a dandelion’s existence skirts the outer reaches of “who gives a hoot?”. However, as always, there are exceptions. For instance, when the yellow flower appears on manicured lawns, herbicides are called into action as groundskeepers race to eradicate the trespasser. Homeowners are also prone to mobilization. Some homesteaders can often be seen with spray bottles filled with dangerous chemicals in hand, standing guard for any signs of the herbal intruder even in the cracks in the sidewalk pavement. Even organic gardeners, using long, skinny and pointed fork tools, can be heard gasping in exasperation, as a section of the long dandelion root breaks off deep underground.

Dandelions don’t give up easily. Their roots can set anchor deep under the soil; some claim as much as four feet, but realistically, most at about a foot deep. To keep it interesting, any small section of root left behind will promptly surface again; just in case the root doesn’t sprout, one of the zillion fuzzy seeds flying around will plant itself.

But the dandelion does have some qualities to hoot about on second look.

The twisted and long tap-root helps to break up the soil. The root brings nutrients too deep in the soil for most vegetables, closer to the surface. At the same time, the dandelion roots help to aerate the soil.

The roots, in the spring, are edible; peeled and boiled, they have a taste like turnips; dried, they can be used as a coffee substitute.

The young, spring leaves are better known than the roots. The leaves are a healthy addition to salads or can be cooked like spinach. They are an excellent source of calcium, potassium and iron. The leaves are also a rich source of vitamins C and A. It gets better; according to the USDA, one serving of uncooked dandelion leaves supplies 280 percent of an adult’s required daily intake of beta carotene.

Even the yellow blossoms that drive lawn manicurists to the brink can be flavorful, particularly in the early spring when they are the sweetest. The flowers can be used in wines (really good), jelly (excellent) and tea (not bad). The unopened buds can be boiled, pickled, sautéed and used in creative dishes such as a batch of fritters.

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A word of caution about eating this wild herb; there are no FDA warning labels. Find plants to dig or pick which have not been sprayed with deadly chemicals.

Dandelions, a perennial herb, are highly respected by some for their medicinal qualities. But second opinions are generally helpful, check with a doctor particularly if there other health issues.

Dandelions, similar to the honeybee, are not native to North America, but both have become widely accepted as natural born. Dandelions provide a very important source of nectar for the pollinators, particularly the native bees and the honeybees, in the early spring when other food sources are scarce.

The populations of pollinators are in serious decline and even a dandelion can help save the beneficial insects, which is another good reason not spray deadly chemicals. The honeybees and native bees, energized from dandelion nectar, then work to pollinated early spring blooming orchards, and other human and wildlife food source plants, trees and shrubs. Ladybugs, another good garden insect, are also fond of dandelions.

There are alternative ways to control and prevent dandelions in the yard and garden without using deadly chemicals. Frequent mowing and regular weeding are good starts.

Dandelions can reproduce quicker than guppies. Each flower can have upwards of 20,000 or more seeds which readily blow all over the place. It’s not likely to find packages of dandelion seeds in the spring seed racks, however, there are sources online.

There actually is quite a lot of good things to hoot about when it comes to a dandelion.dandy

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