Monday, April 7, 2014

Ode to the Dandelion

When most folks picture a beautiful lawn in spring time, they picture beautiful green grass with flowers tastefully decorating a few flower bed.  Since we are into simplicity, when I say some thing is tasteful, I generally mean in my mouth, not so much to my eyes.

One of the most tasteful things in my lawn is the beautiful dandelion.  I'm not sure why folks have such a strong dislike of the dandelion.  Aside from the fact that we are told dislike it, it is quite a pretty plant.  The flower is a beautiful happy yellow which turns into a cloud-like bunch of fluff which are ideal for wish making.  Children pick them and give them to their mothers.  And I find them to be aesthetically pleasing.

But they are so much more! In the beginning of spring, when the greens are still tender, you can pick them and eat them as an addition to a salad.  They have a bit of a bitter taste, but the younger you pick them the sweeter they are.  There is a traditional meal in the Pennsylvania Dutch region, that I used to abhor as a child, but with more grown tastes, I enjoy now.  You can enjoy with hot bacon dressing: Hot Bacon Dressing Salad Recipe

The Dandelion greens have phenomenal nutritional density.  They are: high in calcium, high in fiber, a great source of minerals, yummy, and cheap (free) in you yard.  One man made over $900 selling this "weed" he harvested from his garden to fine dinning establishments.

The yellow flowers are more than just pretty, they can be transformed into wine! This link will take you to a great instructional video on how to make this.  

We're not done with all the wonders of this plant (which some call a weed).  The roots are useful, too!  They make a coffee substitute.  You harvest them and roast them and grind them up to use as tea.  I have not tried this, as harvesting the roots is a lot of work, and I like to use all of other parts of the dandelion so much, I don't see the use.

Finally, they are awesome for your soil.  That long, thick root which seems impossible to remove fully from the ground helps break up compact soil.  It brings nutrients that are deep in ground up to the leaves.  When the leaves die, these nutrients are now at the top of the surface, more accessible to the surrounding plants.  Dandelions are an ideal companion plant in you garden.  I wouldn't plant any, but I would let few flourish to help feed the soil.

When I look at the yellow heads popping up in my yard in Spring, I don't get mad or reach for the weed killer.  I lick my chops for the free greens, give thanks for the beautiful flowers and smile to myself knowing that my lawn is getting healthier naturally.