Submitted by MGV Becky Wegmueller –
Dandelions-Everywhere! They poked umbrella like through the narrow cracks in my brick sidewalk. Using a sharp old steak knife, I stabbed and tugged, stabbed and tugged, the long tap root resisting, mocking. I spent a whole 96-degree morning, arguing with these arrogant, defiant, intrusive, weeds. When asked, “What is a weed,” Ralph Waldo Emerson’s famous answer was “A plant whose virtues have never been discovered.” It was time for me to make my peace with these meddlesome squatters.
Dandelions, or dent de lion — “LION’S TOOTH” in French-haven’t always been the bane of well-groomed lawns and lovingly-tended gardens. In fact, during the whole of recorded history, they have been a source of food, drink and medicine. As early as the tenth century, physicians throughout “Eurasia” saw dandelions as an anti-inflammatory agent, used to ease cases of liver complaint.
Although dandelions were nowhere to be found in North America prior to the arrival of the Mayflower in 1620, by 1671 these hearty, adaptable, easily propagated plants were everywhere. The French brought dent de lion to Canada in the early 1700’s – to enrich their diets with nutritious salad greens. The Spanish, exploring north into present-day New Mexico, brought “Chicorea” to the American Southwest. The Germans planted “Lowenzahn” in Pennsylvania in the 1850’s and the English, settling across the North American continent, brought the dandelion to all corners of the United States. Even Native American soon discovered its virtues. Talk about a world-wide web!
Perhaps Emerson was right–the dandelion is a weed, only if one ignores its many virtues. Its roots can be ground to make a sort of caffeine-free coffee, and those very roots were traditionally used to make root beer. Today 55 tons of dandelion root coffee substitute is sold in England, Australia, and Canada. The leaves–used in salads (best harvested before flowering)- are rich in iron, vitamins A and C, Calcium and phosphorous. The blossoms can be used in making tea, soup and jelly. Dandelion, or “poor-man’s” wine, which graced many a settler’s table is finding new popularity among connoisseurs. And not least, throughout recorded history, dandelion has been used for medicinal purposes in combating urinary tract infection and as an anti-inflammatory agent.
Come spring, I intend to do a little harvesting–to make salads of the greens, jelly from the blossoms, and maybe even coffee from the roots. But in the meantime, I keep on pulling and tugging….