Monday, April 26, 2010

I love Dandelions!

“If dandelions were hard to grow, they would be most welcome on any lawn.”
Andrew V. Mason

I love Dandelions! I know its an incredible, bold statement, in some neighborhoods it would be better to love E. Coli than the dreaded dandelion, but love them I do. Dandelions are the perfect color of yellow...happy, warm and buttery. OK maybe butter is the perfect color of yellow, but be that as it may... The flowers are soft and puffy and tickle your nose when you give them a sniff.

The seeds are incredible and possibly the best part of the plant. The poofs beg for a puff of breath to send them on their aerodynamic way. If the poofs are too new the seeds won't fly away easily, if the are too old, just picking them up has the seeds flying in all directions. Occasionally you find that perfect one that has the holding power to stay but the slights breath will send the little parachutes flying into the breeze.

The smell always reminds me of my own childhood and picking huge bouquets of them for my mom. I can remember the feeling of pulling the flowers up and the white sap making my warm hands sticky. My mom always greeted these short lived bouquets with the proper enthusiasm and put them in a jar of water to be enjoyed by anyone around for the next hour before the flowers closed up forever. Now, as a mom myself, I get to enjoy being on the receiving end of these generational offerings and it really does make me smile. Here's the thing, the dandelion is more than a nuisance in the lawn or a beautiful flower arrangement to any mom, they are also very versatile plants. They grow just about anywhere, even in spots where other plant fail because of the heat or foot traffic, they are
very drought tolerant thanks to their long tap root and every part of the plant is edible and purported to have medicinal value as well.

The serrated leaves can be used in a salad, the young plants taste a bit like arugula, the older leaves are bitter and better used for cooking. They can be baked, boiled or sauteed with a little garlic. The leaves are high in Vitamins A, C and K, Carotene, Lutein, Calcium and Iron as well as other nutrients. The leaves are also known as a blood purifier and can be used as a diuretic.

The flowers can be eaten in a salad, made into wine or dipped in batter and deep fried. That's right folks, dandelion flowers can be fermented into a wine. Can your fancy, shmancy rose you labor over, worry over and mourn when it's killed off by random frostbite, be made into an alcoholic drink... or deep fried? Not to mention a rose dies if you look at it wrong... a dandelion barely turns brown with the addition of herbicide or a good stomping. In fact in can be hard to get rid of these stubborn plants as the tap root will easily grow another plant if the whole thing isn't carefully removed.

That long tap root can be brewed into a drink that is something like decaf coffee... although if you've actually had coffee and like it, you might not be really wowed by it. The tea is said to have a lot of benefits including as an anti inflammatory and an aid to digestion.

All these great benefits are why our ancestors brought the plant over to the new world. The botanic name of the Dandelion is Taraxacum officinale which can be translated to mean, "disorder remedy". I might not believe its a panacea for every disorder that affects us or even listed on the net, but the vitamins and minerals are something the plant does contain in abundance.

So the next time you are thinking about spraying a dandelions in your yard, take the time to look at it a little more closely. That plant you hate so much brings joy to kids and there aren't many plants that can lay claim to being completely edible as well as medicinally useful. Yet the highly maligned, humble dandelion can do it all.

No comments: