Friday 11 April 2008

Dandelions: Brews, Folklore and Gardening

Many gardeners hate dandelions.

They don't appreciate their shaggy yellow flowers that look rather like a lion's mane - dandelion actually means "lion's tooth", named after their jagged leaves. Neither do they like the delicate white dandelion clocks that, as children, we learn to make a wish on before blowing to the wind.

Those wanting a pristine, manicured lawn see dandelions as a weed that spreads fast and is difficult to get rid of.

Luckily, more people are realising that wildflowers can enhance a garden. Bees and other creatures love dandelions because they are nutritious - and we can eat them too.

Dandelion tea is supposed to be good for the complexion. To brew it, just cut off the yellow heads and steep four of them in a cup of boiling water for 20 minutes. The green leaves can be added to salad and are said to taste a little like rocket.

If you are feeling a bit more adventurous, you can make dandelion wine. St George's Day, 23 April, is the traditional date to start brewing this, although you can do it whenever there are lots of flowers in bloom as you will need a large amount.

Herbalists have used dandelions for centuries for their medicinal properties. Culpeper, the 17th century herbalist, wrote:
"It has an opening and cleansing property and, therefore, very effectual for removing obstructions of the liver, gall bladder and spleen and diseases arising from them such as jaundice."
The root of the plant contains a lot of vitamin A and some B vitamins while the leaves contain vitamin C. Dandelions are a diuretic, which gives the plant its vulgar name "wet-the-bed". However, drinking dandelion tea early in the day can help empty the bladder before going to bed, which is reputed to help night-time incontinence.

The sap from the stems has also in the past been used to treat warts.

What's more, eating all the dandelions in your garden is a good way of reducing their numbers, if that's what you want to do.

This is not medical advice. Always seek expert advice before taking herbal remedies. .

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