Monday, 20 May 2013

The Extraordinary Dandelion

"Has there ever been a year for dandelions like this year?”
Standing in the kitchen, after his walk with the dog, he looks wistful, undecided.

Gathering and preparing dandelions for wine-making is labour-intensive;
dandelion heads must be plucked when in full bloom,
preferably late in the morning or early in the afternoon,
and always on a dry and sunny day.
Leave it too late and the flowers will be half-closed and difficult to handle.
Make sure that every trace of stem is removed,
and also remove as many as possible of the green sepals that enclose the yellow petals.
If you don’t, your wine will be bitter.
Kitchen scissors are the tool of choice.

He has decided, he will make dandelion wine,
the first in many years.

Be warned, however.
A strong bladder and digestive system are essential if you want to come away unscathed.
The dandelion’s other names are:

Pissy beds,
Pittley beds,
Dog’s posy,
Old man’s clock,
Peasant’s clock,
Swine’s snout,

the seeds are known as:

Sugar eaters.


Dandelions mean carpets of golden-yellow flowers, jagged green leaves (the dent de lion - lion’s tooth) and clouds of featherweight seeds blowing in the wind. Albrecht Duerer saw the appeal even of the closed and withering flower-heads and included them in his extraordinary close-up portrait, painted in 1503, of a square foot of meadowland, "Das Grosse Rasenstueck". Shakespeare included the plant in the elegy in Cymbeline : “Golden girls and lads all must / As chimney sweepers come to dust.” Keats imagined “The soft rustle of a maiden’s gown/ Fanning away the dandelion’s down.”

Children still blow dandelion down from the round dandelion clocks - the ‘chimney sweepers’ - to ‘tell the time’. The number of blows needed to remove all the seeds gives the hour. if you can catch one on the wing. you can make a wish.

Lastly, dandelions appear more and more on menus; the traditional French dish Pissenlit au Lard has fried bacon scraps (lardons) and croutons served on a bed of dandelion salad; dandelion leaves can be found in ordinary pub salads. There’s dandelion pasta,  pickled dandelions, and stir-fried dandelion.

In spite of all the above I have spent a good part of today’s gardening gouging out dandelions in my flower beds. Lesser celandine and dandelions are this gardener’s greatest enemies, no matter how highly tradition values them.

Tess Kincaid used Jamie Wyeth’s image
`’Lighthouse Dandelions” for her prompt
MAG 169.

This post is loosely connected.


  1. I have boatloads of them in my front yard; not so much in the back. I think I'm a little too chicken to try making the wine. I actually like them. I know they are weeds and not so pretty once the yellow goes, but they ARE pretty -- and right now, the only flowers in my yard!

  2. Well, I have heard of dandelion wine...but may never taste it before I die. My mom made dandelion salad, but I did not really like it. She also made endive salad which I would not eat as a child. I do like arugula while the weather is still cool. I have seen brown bears eating the flower heads of dandelion, so there must be sweet sugars there for the wine.

  3. ha. my father in law used to pay the kids a nickle a dandelion to make his dandelion wine...its def some interesting stuff...been a few years though since he's made any...i rather love dandelions...smiles.

  4. The Pissenlit sounds delicious, but maybe someone can think of a different name in English. Sounds like I'll pass on the dandelion wine.

  5. I used to make dandelion wine and it was, as you say, quite a fussy business....none here, so no use for the wonderful dandelion eradication tool I left in France with a sort of bulb planter sized grab on the end of a stout stick.
    Plunge, twist and the root came up.

  6. I like them. they're just another wildflower to me. Why do some wildflowers get called flowers and others weeds? I let them stay, in the grass or in the garden.

    1. Surely a weed is a flower growing in the wrong place?

  7. Nice to see my home-boy Wyeth at the end of this delightful celebration of every child's favorite flower :-)


  8. Interesting stuff, Friko.
    Dandelions are definitely my favorite weed.


  9. The lowly dandelion, a child's favorite flower and for the grown-up man child, the evil intruder on his perfect lawn.

  10. We grow them under covers to blanch them a little and make them etiolated, then they are much nicer in salads. Mind you, I have to fight the geese for them: they adore them, and the broody goose nearly bites my hand off when I take some in to her. Any ill poultry that I have ever had always turned to dandelion greens because they are so mineral and vitamin rich. And of course the bees adore the flowers. Should never be called a 'weed' in my opinion:)

  11. I enjoyed the tale and the dandelion nicknames. Great writing here!

  12. We have few dandelions in our yard just now, am expecting more as the season advances. We dig them out but the neighbours don't, so their seeds blow into our yard. I've never tried dandelion wine - sounds like something for the adventurous palate.

  13. What a lovely collection of thoughts about the dandelion. Everytime I see a field of them such as yours, I think of my iguana Bob. It was "her" favorite food. She would sit in the studio window and nod her head furiously at seeing them outside until I went out and gathered her some. Bob grew to be 5.5 ft long and was an unusual but very loving pet. Oma Linda

  14. Ja die Pusteblume - ich hatte keine Ahnung, dass man Wein draus machen kann. Du hast ihr einen schoenen, sogar liebevollen post gewidmet - tja, nur in Deinem Garten moechtest Du sie halt nicht haben. Ist ja schliesslich auch wirklich nicht noetig, mit so einer Loewenzahnwiese vor dem Haus! :-)

  15. Dandelion wine is something I have not yet tasted, although I have eaten Löwenzahnsalat and rucola on pizza and in other dishes many times, and like it very much.
    Since yellow is my favourite colour, it is hardly surprising that I quite like the flower!

  16. Very interesting and informative. "Pis en lit" was the first French I learned, from a playmate down the road, years before I started at Grammar School.

  17. I understand only the young and tender dandelion leaves are used in salad, but I am of two minds, or more, about eating it.
    Have never tasted dandelion wine and now I never will.
    An interesting and instructive post, Friko.

  18. Oh wow I learned so much! When I had parakeets they sometimes got dandelion greens with their veggies though they much preferred Swiss Chard to any other greens

  19. I have a dandelion clock set in perspex. I love it, and wish I knew how it was done. I haven't had dandelion wine, and spend far too much time attempting to eradicate the little dears from my garden.

  20. paardebloemenwijn??als ik je verhaal leest moet ik nog maar even wachten.

  21. I was saying the same thing to DH only a couple of days ago. I have never in my life seen so many dandelions as this spring. Must try dandelion leaves in our lunchtime salad and see whether the effects live up to the French name....

  22. Hi Friko .. what an excellent post and homage to the humble dandelion. There are masses of them - as I concur after my journey to London and back via the backways of Sussex .. I think dandelions might rule England next year!

    I used to love playing clocks with the dandelion seed head ... this is such a wonderful post ... good luck with the removal of dreaded weeds, or are they just nature's flowers?!

    Cheers Hilary

  23. Ooof, I started reading the comments and ran out of steam before I got to the end. I think they are pretty when they are yellow, and I've never tasted dandelion wine, although I would love to find some to taste. Loved the post and learned a lot. :-)

  24. I love dandelions ... in other people's yards and gardens ... learned so much here, dearie! Especially the folklore aspect of the lowly dandelion ... hope you're having a wonderful week!

  25. Oh Friko, this post was a delightful read...and so very educational, too.

    I used to do lots of dandelion weeding when I was a child (and was much closer to the ground and had very flexible knee joints.) All the same, I'd love to be able to help you with your garden project and indulge in memories. Do you remember the early Rolling Stones tune with the lyric Dandilions don't tell no lies...?


  26. Do you know that dandelions are also intelligent? If you mow them they will eventually come back and bloom at a height to where the mower won't cut them. Incredible little buggers. I use to get dandelion salads when I lived in Germany.

  27. Loosely connected perhaps, but a loving tribute to the little soldiers standing erect in my lawn until David decapitates them. No use trying to pull them out of the soil. I'm trying to remember the poem about Dandelions I knew as a child. Gone but not forgotten...sigh.

    I noticed them early in my life because my Mom's favorite childhood book was The Dandelion Cottage. Just remembered that. Thanks for the memory bubble. Dianne

  28. A great tribute to the lowly dandelion, Friko! I must admit that having read Fly's comment about a 'dandelion eradicator' I love to have that in my arsenal for fighting weeds! Appreciate seeing all the different names for the plant, too...

  29. My godmother made dandelion salad every year. I always found it rather odd and faintly embarrassing, as that was before anyone was foraging or thinking about organic produce. Now I wish she could tell me about all the other things she gathered in spring.

  30. Dandelions are so very cheerful!

  31. We used to bake the roots and grind them up as a poor coffee substitute.

  32. They're called "Lion's Tooth" in Spain , for some reason and "Horse Flowers" here in Holland .
    I think they're rather pretty , but then I've not got a lawn . Nor , I must say , any desire to eat any gathered in town . Too likely to have been well watered by passing dogs !

  33. Yes it is the lowly yet persuasive dandelion.

  34. I just learned recently, from Steve at Portraits of Wildflowers, that our dandelion, same as yours, is a European invader! And here I thought it was pure Americana. There is an American version, of which Steve posted photographs. It's quite lovely. I wonder if it, too, makes good wine. One of his photos may be found here:

  35. I know so little about Dandelions, now I know much more!
    Stunning opening photo.
    So Beloved is the wine-maker!

  36. I once heard that wine called a "temporary palliative." I found that very amusing.

    If it is called Jack piss the bed, I may just pass.

  37. hi friko! so happy i found your blog, it looks so fun! and i learned much about dandelions - our yard is full of them. love all the nicknames you mentioned too, all new to me :)

  38. I wish I could love the lowly dandelion - but I CANNOT! I'm having a glass of wine as I write this - not dandelion wine...

  39. Given all the nicknames, why does anyone WANT to drink dandelion wine?

    They do seem to be extra abundant this year - I spend a lot of time digging them out, too.

  40. What fascinating information about dandelions. I had to laugh at all the alternative names. As children we had the idea that if we smelt them we would wet the bed. Now I know where that comes from! I must confess that I weed them out of the garden too, although sometimes I leave one or two for salad leaves.

  41. They are prolific over here at the moment. My pet rabbits love to eat the flowers. They look very pretty when growing en masse out in a field as your photo shows only too well.
    Maggie x

    Nuts in May

  42. Hundreds as I look out the window.
    Do not like them in my garden
    and wish I did.
    You make them sound
    so beautiful...

  43. And I thought you were going to say that you absolutely adored the things. So glad you find them despicable! Interestingly, dandelions don't grow as well here in Florida, but we have many other weeds to keep us busy.

  44. I quite like them though I can understand why you do not. You sure gave your enemy a fine tribute though.

  45. My Greek grandmother used to pick them and make salad with them or cook them up like spinach. I'm not fond of them, but understand that they are good for you. They sell dandelion greens in up-scale grocers around here, for a hefty price considering all one has to do is pick them.

    Have you ever read Ray Bradbury's Dandelion Wine. You can likely find it in the science fiction section, though it really isn't sci-fi and a delightful read - as was this post.

  46. The field of dandelions is spectacular, but those pesky flowers do spread to places they are not welcome, don't they?

    I loved reading all about the dandelion today. I've never drunk dandelion wine. I guess that could be a good thing, but now I am curious about tasting it.

  47. Guten Morgen Friko,
    wenn du mehr über einheimische Orchideen wissen möchtest, hier ist eine ganz wunderbate Seite, die fast keine Wünsche offen lässt:
    Dort werden so viele unterschiedliche Orchideen beschrieben und mit wirklich klasse Fotos dargestellt, dass es nicht mehr all zu schwer ist, seine eigenen gefundenen Schätzchen zu bestimmen. Schau doch mal rein, vielleicht findest du ja, was da bei dir im Garten blüht. Ähnliche Seiten von britischen Orchideenkennern gibt es bestimmt auch in den Weiten des WWW.
    Gruß und schönen Tag noch, Uwe.

  48. I think there must be. I passed a field full of dandelions the other day on a dog walk. I took a second look as I couldn't believe there could be so many.

  49. I never knew about the dandelion wine!! Thanks for writing this lovely, informative post. Personally, I love a field chockablock with dandelions - gives a sunny and picknik-y feel. Dandy little lions they are! ;-)

  50. I love seeing dandelions, so bright, so cheerful, so difficult to eradicate from the garden. We made dandelion wine one year - well, the man did. Of course, that was when we had three slaves - I mean children - to help pick the dandelions. As I recall, it was a rather nice, quite dry wine.

  51. Dear Friko, I've had such a crop of dandelions in my front and back yard this year that I'm sure I'd win the gold medal if the Olympics featured such a contest! And you might win the gold medal for weeding them out--ruthlessly!!!!!

    The nuns who cooked in the convent kitchen made dandelion salad for all of us each summer. That's the only time I've eaten dandelion leaves. A distinct taste. Peace.

  52. My Aunt Minerva went on a wine-making spree when I was in college. She had about 7 different types bubbling in her basement. Dandelion was one of them. I knew heard how they turned out, though.

  53. and yet you can't buy Dandelion and Burdock cordial for love nor money

    We have a blackcurrant bush in our back garden and every year i think about having a go at wine making, until i remember how often my Nan's used to explode over her kitchen

  54. I've never heard those names. Awesome.

  55. I've always loved the little lions teeth! See here for another lovely post about dandelions you might enjoy:

  56. Pissy beds,!! Just loved this bit of information. I had no idea and asked my husband had ever heard about Dandelion Wine. He said yes... He knows everything.


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