Jun 11th, 2017
There's power in that flower - End song, "Shimmer," by Riley Mae Skinner
You'd have to be living under a rock not to have noticed. Things are popping out all over! Even if you are living under a rock you'd probably notice the green shoots and colorful blooms chorusing right outside your stone. Spring is the right name for it.
I definitely like going out into the local woods looking for berries, mushrooms and any edible plants that present themselves.
Right now it's dandelion season. There are several varieties of these wonderful taraxacum officinale from the asteraceae family. There's the common American lawn dandelion to the more exotic Norwegian dandelion.
Dandelions spring up on every continent on earth. When we get to mars, it would not shock me if the red planet was covered in dandelions.
Dandelions are like wolves. They get a bad rap from humans. People love to hate them even though they are wild, beneficial, beautiful, and in the case of the dandelion, bountiful.
Everybody knows that dandelions are fun to play with. You can put them in your hair or your lapel. You can make the stem into a flute. You can give them to a friend. You can hunt them early and make daisy chains or you can look for the mature white puffballs containing hundreds of dandy little seed umbrellas that catch the wind and soar or snag on the coat of a meerkat and get dropped in a distant meadow. Sometimes critters even poop out the seeds.
And just like the common grey wolf we Americans have done our best to eradicate one of nature's most profoundly wonderful creations, in this case the humble dandelion.
You can eat dandelions. I hear you. You are saying right now, “yeah, but why would I?”
Health benefits, that's why.
Apparently dandelions are strong medicine. The Latin roots to the flower's name means something like “the official remedy for all that ails ya.” What if someone develops a dandelion addiction? There's good news for those of us who exhibit addictive personality traits. Even though they are potent, you can't really OD.
The leaves are really good for your kidneys and the roots work magic on your liver. Need to cleanse and clean and clear your accumulated toxins? You know you want to. Try some dandelion leaves in your salad and make a tea out of the roots. This will cleanse you without all those side effects you hear about on TV.
I'll be the first to admit that taraxacum officinale tastes a little bitter. So if you just pop one in your mouth on the trail you might not like it. But you won't get sick. Experts say that you can eat any part but the young leaves and the roots are where the nectar is.
The bitterness is just the kind of thing that some people like. I'm not a huge fan of arugula but if it gets the right treatment the bitterness is a benefit. Everyone knows that ranch dressing makes pretty much anything taste great. But the pickers, picklers and planters that I know would never stoop to smothering their dandelions in ranch. It's not done. Try a nice vinegar and oil.
Last year at Dandelion Day in Carbondale someone was serving dandelion fritters. She dipped the flowers in some savory pancake batter and fried them on an iron skillet until brown. Now we're eating them like this at home. Serve warm. Kind of like sushi, you want to put the whole golden browned head in your mouth at once so you don't make a mess.
There's a retired doctor in Carbondale who makes a kick ass beer from using dandelions. They call him “Doctor Dandelion.” I am probably not the best judge of microbrews but his stew tastes pretty good to me. I am don't know if drinking dandelion brew has health benefits but it would not surprise me if you lost weight from drinking buckets of this very effective diuretic.
History tells us that dandelions were brought over intentionally on the Mayflower for making medicine and wine. The founding mothers and fathers knew that dandelions were good for their constitutions.
Dandelions are a good thing to add to a salad. Mix them up with some other wild greens and add some sweet flowers and berries to counter the bitterness. Bacon bits will add that savory richness if you really need it.
Dandelions can be included in pesto. You can find enough ingredients right here to do the whole deal. Pine nuts, dandelion greens and mint make a solid base—then get creative.
Whatever you do, don't dismiss the dandelion. Look at things from worm level and you will see some beautiful flowers and big bumblebees.
Steve Skinner want to plant one on you. He thanks author Laurel Dewey for her magnificent books, which provided some of the source material for this article. Reach Steve at firstname.lastname@example.org.