Dandelions: Good for everything.
When I was in high school, I placed an order for dandelion seeds from my small town’s nursery. The store manager called my mom to make sure this was okay with her. I’d read Stalking the Wild Asparagus, by Euell Gibbons, and was entranced by the abundantly positive properties of the plant. (I’d also ordered drosophila melanogaster, a.k.a. fruit flies, from a biological supply house a few years earlier, but that’s a different story.)
I don’t recall if I ever planted them (or if they grew—wouldn’t a failed crop of dandelions be a joke!). But I know my mother said yes. Her mother, before she’d gone blind, used to make a dandelion wine that I’m told was delicious. At the same time, my dad diligently poisoned the plants that appeared uninvited in our lawn. I knew about neurotoxins; I’d read Silent Spring. I wasn’t going to eat those!
I’ve retained my affection for one of spring’s first flowers. As Katrina Blair notes in her book The Wild Wisdom of Weeds (see p. 34), dandelion provides the earliest food for bees. The leaves are loaded with nutrition (the entire plant offers a complete protein) and provide a spring tonic. Sap from the stem is a beauty treatment. Other healing traditions—notably from China and India—have used dandelion medicinally for millennia.
So why do we Westerners hate them so much? True—left unharvested, they grow leggy, bitter and tough, and the wind will send their seeds far and wide. But if we poison them, there goes an interesting salad, and much-needed food for pollinators. This indomitable, resilient plant will rise again. Why not partake?
Perhaps there’s even an analogy in there, somewhere: Find the things in life that support life, and appreciate them. Nurture them. Engage with the uninvited visitor. Learn their stories. Perhaps incorporate them into your life.
If not, well, analogies take us just so far. Mow them if you must. But please, avoid the poison.
Greta Belanger deJong is the editor and publisher of CATALYST.