|Dandelion flowers, early spring|
Dandelions. We love 'em- we hate 'em. We love th' signal of spring in full swing- and a field of yellow flowers instantly transports us to our childhood days. To days when wishes were made by blowing puff balls all over th' yard. Laughing in silly glee. That was before we knew th' neighbors were cringing at th' thought of those lovely wishes landing in their yard and growing a hundred fold more wishes.
|dadelion "puff ball"|
Why is it that grown ups don't make wishes? Have not enough of them come true? Have they made th' wrong ones? Have they lost all hope? I say "they" as though i were not one- but truly, being grown up is a mentality- and one that dandelions battle with in all of us- either one way or the other.
However, being th' grown-ups that some of us are- we don't have to rely on wishes alone for th' dandelion to be a sacred part of our lives. For it is one of th' most nourishing foods we will ever eat. And, yes, you can even enjoy eating them. With a little time and attention, a little preparation, and those lovely little plants that we've been unable to kill with all our millions of tons of poison can actually taste good, and take care of us too. And how's this for a role model of forgiveness- by eating them, they can actually de-toxify our body of th' poisons that we've so ruthlessly lavished upon them. Among it's many medicinal uses, it's best known as a purifier of th' liver and kidneys, and has been used historically for gall and kidney stones. Being good for th' inside, it's also good for th' outside. With less toxins inside our body, less toxins will be released through our skin, thus it will be healthier. We will be healthier. With practically everyone we know getting cancer, and despite doctors claims, very few of them actually surviving it, de-toxifying sounds like a good option to me. In this case, prevention is the only medicine.
|Honey bee on dandelion|
Dandelions are also high in vitamins A and C, Beta-Carotine, Potassium and Iron. Persistent little buggers, ain't they. But i do realize that knowing something is good for you is simply not enough to make us go out and eat something we believe tastes absolutely repulsive. But, like all true treasures in th' world, There is a gem hiding, if you're willing to put in th' effort. Which, in th' case of dandelion, is usually not much. Just cook th' dang things like spinach. Use a little oil, or butter, or bacon grease- it'll taste fantastic and you'll be able to serve it to th' pickiest of palates. If you want to go a little bit further, you can selectively pick them for least bitterness, here's how: look for ones that have not yet grown a flower stalk- look for fast growing ones, usually in a moist location- and sometimes, though not always, look for ones with fuller, less saw-tooth shaped leaves. These are good indicators that th' flavor will be at it's best.
We use them, along with many other wild greens, in dishes where you would use spinach. It goes great in Quiche, sauteed with a bit of bacon or olive oil, omlets, enchiladas, soups, you name it. If you could put some greens in there, then dandelions will work. For some more great recipes using dandelions and other wild foods see th' blog Hunger and Thirst for Life.
And for some more great reading on th' value of common yard "weeds", check out Doc Weed's Doin's, this guy is a dandelion expert, and travels around teaching folks about th simple, yet overlooked, plants growing all around them. He lived through th' Great Depression eating weeds, and has a lot of really pertinent stuff to say about it.
Of course there's always th' famous "Dandelion Coffee"- see th' picture at th' top of our blog? That's not coffee, it's roasted dandelion root. This drink is quite bitter, perhaps we always make it too strong, and we'll experiment with it some more. We chopped th' roots to as even a consistency as we could, then roasted them in the oven on a cookie sheet till they turned dark brown, and smelled really good. Then just grind 'em up and brew like coffee, though use a little less dandelion root per amount of water than you would with coffee. I like to overdo it, but then no one else will drink it. Nevertheless, a nice warm drink is a good way to enjoy it's many health benefits. Mix it with cream and sugar, or other herbs to make your own blends.
Once you get used to dandelions as food, you'll find yourself getting cravings for them. We like to eat th' flowers right off th' plants, and they also make a good salad topping. Our four year old friend and foraging companion Nohea was out in th' yard eating dandelion flowers, with her parents knowledge of course, and th' neighbors were looking on horrified. Hey- don't you know your kids are eating weeds! Yeah, they do it all th' time. Th' flowers are th' ingredient used in th' familiar dandelion wine, you can find numerous recipes for that online. We're not very skilled at making alcohol, but we did end up making some vinegar instead a few times.
The other day i walked into our local food co-op and, after being assaulted by "buy local" and "ride your bike" signs, saw that they had dandelion greens for sale. Being th' dandelion lover i was instantly drawn closer. That's when i saw that they were actually trucked over from California. That's just not right, i thought. For a month now dandelions have been popping up all over town, and folks have been out in th' yard spraying poison to try, in vain, to stop them. Folks, we're supposed to be the examples of a better- cleaner, healthier world. There is just no excuse or valid reason to burn however many gallons of diesel fuel it takes to get a truck from California to Colorado to buy something that we've been poisoning right in our own front yard. There's a big warning sign here, and if we don't see it it's not because it's not clear, but because we've forgotten how to read. A diversity of food will keep us healthy. Along with dandelions, here's some more common weeds that used to be used as food, are very nutritious, and would be in most peoples yards if only we'd let them. Dock, Amaranth, Lambs Quarters, Mustards, Mallow, just to name a few. And these foods will grow without our help. No more watering th' lawn with extravagant summer water bills, no more money spent on fertilizers and pesticides! No more expensive loud exhausting lawn mowers! Do you see i'm trying to appeal even to our pocket-books here? It's time we start seeing a new vision, one not of unsustainable lawns in th' high desert, but rather, a highly nourishing garden. So go ahead, make a wish.