Sunday, April 18, 2010

The miracle of dandelions

I've been derelict in posting, particularly about my last visit to the farm ... and I'll get to that one this evening. There's a rhubarb pie in the oven right now that's tied to that visit, and pictures will be forthcoming.

In the meantime, I thought I'd wax poetic about the wonder that is the dandelion.

While walking Cookie on her morning excursion, I noticed that the dozens of dandelions that were in the backyard the day before seemed to have vanished. Instead of opening their yellow faces to the sky, they'd closed up under cover of darkness. All that seemed to be left as evidence that they'd been there was the parachute seed pod.

As the morning progressed, the dandelions opened up, seemingly marching down the hill of the backyard. I've seen it before, but this was the first time I really thought much about it. It is one of life's little miracles, the dandelion.

It is, for so many people in this country, a bastion of the evil side of spring. Millions of people spend millions of dollars trying to eradicate this sunny little thing from their lawns. I think they're absolutely nuts. Insane, I tell you.

Dandelions never fail to make me smile. There are a couple of hillocks along the road I take to get home from work everyday and they are positively blanketed with dandelions. Second to the farm with the baby donkey along the same road, it's my favorite spot on the road.

As a culture, we spend so much time going after this flower, that we forget it's actually quite important. Dandelions are food for butterflies, and who doesn't like butterflies? They also attract bees, though the dandelion doesn't reproduce by pollination. And bees pollinate other plants, thus carrying on the cycle of life.

But dandelions are food, too. Most commonly, they're used in Mediterranean and Asian foods. Historically, they've served a medicinal role, even in the U.S., though we seem to have forgotten that. Teas can be made both from parts of the plant, or by using the whole thing, and have been used in Chinese medicine for liver detoxification, as a natural diuretic and for reducing inflammation. According to the dubious-in-accuracy Wiki, but it's as good a source as any right now: "Unlike other diuretics, dandelion leaves contain good amounts of potassium, a mineral that is often lost during increased urination. There is also evidence that this property of dandelion leaves may normalize blood sugar."

Dandelions also are credited as being more nutritious than spinach, and "A cup of dandelion leaves contains 112% daily recommendation of vitamin A, 32% of vitamin C, and 535% of vitamin K and 218 mg potassium, 103 mg calcium, and 1.7 mg of iron. Dandelions are also an excellent source of vitamin H, which is proven to aid in weight loss when ingested."

So there. Stop killing your dandelions, and enjoy them for the simple miracle that they are! If you do decide to consume them, make sure you clean them thoroughly, and that they come from a spot/area where pesticides have not been used (our yard definitely qualifies).

For more information ... check out Healing Plants by Ana Nez Heatherly.

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