Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Walking On Sunshine

I have this kind of love/hate relationship with dandelions and I'm betting you do too. They're the sort of thing that you can't live with because they irritate you so much and you can't live without them because they just won't let you.

At this time of year, they're fairly innocuous, and to be honest, they've got a lot going for them. We've just emerged from winter and seeing the first dandelion bloom pretty much makes each and every one of us smile, even if it's only on the inside. And one or two of them won't hurt anything anyway. Unless you let it go to seed.

One dandelion bloom produces 54 to 172 seeds and one plant will produce more than 2000 seeds. A single acre of dandelions is estimated to have the capability of producing 240,000,000 seeds a year. Not only that, dandelions do this all on their own because they are apomictic. In other words, no sex is required for them to reproduce. No wonder they pop up anywhere and everywhere.

Even though dandelions don't require pollination to produce seed and thus reproduce, they are well-visited by pollinators such as bumblebees, honeybees, butterflies, beetles, and moths. Dandelions are one of their earliest sources of nectar and far be it from me to deny the bees their breakfast.

But you could be enjoying dandelions for your breakfast too. Every part of the dandelion is edible, with the roots tasting a lot like parsnips, the young greens making a tasty leafy salad, and the blossoms as the basis for a delicate-tasting jelly. And there's wine.

Dandelions pack a punch when it comes to nutrients. According to nutritiondata.com and the USDA, “This food is low in saturated fat, and very low in cholesterol. It is also a good source of folate, magnesium, phosphorus and copper, and a very good source of dietary fiber, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin E (Alpha Tocopherol), Vitamin K, Thiamine, Riboflavin, Vitamin B6, calcium, iron, potassium and manganese.”

One serving of dandelion greens (1 cup) has 35 calories, provides 112% of your daily value (DV) of Vitamin A, 32% of Vitamin C, 10% of calcium, and 9% of iron.

We've never had a perfect lawn. Far from it, for several reasons. First of all, we live on an acre that has a lot of grass. We don't weed and feed, and as far as dandelions go, I'm perfectly fine with seeing them peppered throughout the yard as yellow flowers. I don't mind clover either but that's a conversation for another day.

Do we battle dandelions, in spite of all the facts about them that are in the pro column? Sure, because we don't want an entire lawn of them and I don't want them in my gardens. We're not trying to raise them as a crop.

So we dig out the larger ones and we try to mow before they go to seed. We keep just enough around for grandkids to make daisy chains and bring us sunny bouquets. Just enough to provide pollinators with nutrition when it's in limited supply. Just enough to make us smile when we that's exactly what we need.

Kara, age 6, in 1986

The article, "Walking On Sunshine," first appeared in my weekly newspaper column in the Paulding Progress, published in Paulding, OH.


Lisa Greenbow said...

Isn't this the truth. These plants are so cheerful...until they take over.

RobinL said...

Dandelions cheery yellow faces make me smile in the spring. However, hubby The Lawn Man has a different opinion. None allowed in his perfect green lawn. I've tried to convince him otherwise, but he's just not having it. Guess I can't win every time.

Jodi DeLong said...

I am happy to welcome the dandelions--I dig them out of the garden beds, but they can frolic anywhere else in the yard to their hearts' content. Love their sunny faces!

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