Dent-de-lion or pissenlit

Who knew that dandelions are so named after the French words for lion’s teeth? Dent-de-lion. This is one of those light-bulb moments of French learning when you suddenly feel rather smart.

The ubiquitous yellow flowers that most of us consider as weeds are commonly known in France as ‘pissenlit’ (pronounced: peess-ahn-lee). Literally: piss in bed. Apparently this is because the plant has diuretic properties. It’s official name is Taraxacum.

I’ve heard of dandelion wine but never tasted it. Thank god. (At least I assume so: can anyone correct me?). I have enjoyed the bitter tasting dandelion greens in salad. They are called lion’s teeth for the jagged edges of their leaves.

Dandelion greens

At the moment in our area dandelions are everywhere, along with many lovely plants of intense yellow flower that seem to reach a fever pitch in spring like daffodils, forsythia, colza (rapeseed).

Colza, aka rapeseed

Here they are like waves of gold on the gentle slopes in neighbouring Switzerland.

I love their bright splash of yellow, their hardy nature and even their blowsy Afro-style heads when they go to seed.

How do you feel about dandelions?


  1. Heide · April 23, 2019

    “Pissenlit,” eh? 🙂 That sums up my feelings about the ubiquity of dandelions in my garden, even if I do find their blooms and tufted seed pods rather pretty. Like you, I’ve tried to join the rabbits in eating them but find them too bitter unless they’re picked when very tender. As for those fields of colza: Aren’t they gorgeous when you go whizzing past them on the train?

    • MELewis · April 24, 2019

      Great name, indeed! 😂 As for the colza, I never saw anything like those yellow fields until I came to France. People always found it hard to believe that the landscapes here were more stunning than the ones I grew up with in Canada. But you just can’t compare the extremes of Canada in all its enormity to the scenery and intense colours of this patchwork quilt of a country!

  2. Becky Ross Michael · April 23, 2019

    I never knew that about the name! I loved dandelions as a kid and could never understand why my dad didn’t like them in the lawn:) I’ve never eaten the greens, but did try a tea made with the roots, I believe. Quite bitter, and I wasn’t crazy about it.

    • MELewis · April 24, 2019

      Funny how kids and adults have such different views of things. I remember thinking the same thing! Thanks for the tip, will keep away from the tea if it’s offered. 😛

  3. Joanne Sisco · April 23, 2019

    Dents-de-lion … who knew?!! Too bad the plant itself is so ugly and aggressive because those yellow flower heads in the spring are so pretty.

    I’m still struggling with the difference between the rapeseed plant and mustard. When I looked for images of the two, they appear to be the same. I was told that all those fields of yellow I’ve been seeing since we arrived in France were mustard. Given the French love of mustard, that kind of made sense to me. Now I’m not so sure because I originally thought it was rapeseed.

    • MELewis · April 24, 2019

      Interesting question and it seems you are not alone in wondering! Apparently what we are seeing now in April is most likely colza as mustard flowers later, from May to September. Mustard also grows taller and lasts longer. Not sure I’d be able to tell the difference though! Maybe the smell?

      • Joanne Sisco · April 24, 2019

        That actually helps a lot. thanks 🙂

  4. Dale · April 23, 2019

    I keep my pissenlits on my lawn as they are the bees first food. The whole plant can be used, actually. I have not tasted the wine, as of yet!

    • MELewis · April 24, 2019

      Good point! Mine are in full bloom at the moment so the bees must be well nourished. As for the wine…well. Keep me posted! 🥴

      • Dale · April 24, 2019

        Don’t figure that will happen any time soon, but you got it! 😉

  5. eyelean · April 23, 2019

    I didn’t have any feelings about dandelions for many years and now I’m teaching my two-year-old to blow on them so I find them charming again. There’s not much force in his lungs yet though so he usually needs help.

    • MELewis · April 24, 2019

      Oh, how sweet! One of these days it will make a great photo — chubby cheeks blowing a dandelion in full seed! 😍

  6. fatdormouse · April 26, 2019

    My friends used to make dandelion jam ( for their Chambre d’hotes guests. It always went down a storm.

  7. Yves · April 16, 2021

    My mother collected dandelion flowers every spring to make her dandelion wine. I can’t remember exactly how long it aged but it was just marvelous in all aspects, very light yellow color and a mellow taste that I wish I could feel again.

  8. Mango VanRasp · May 24, 2021

    To open a well aged dandelion wine in February is to recollect the aroma and taste of a beautiful yellow flower on the day it was picked in the year of its vintage.

  9. 🇱🇧yussef961 (@yussef961) · February 13, 2022

    being French I noticed dandelion came from dents de lion… but pissenlit = pisse au lit, never noticed that… thx

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