The Lowly Dandelion:
 "Nipping Them in the Bud"

Christine Maccabee

In previous article I wrote of a few places around town where I'd observed wild plants growing. Having limited space to write, I couldn't mention the other half dozen other wild spots I'd noticed, one of which, Ron and Tern, must have been your lawn! When I drove past it this spring, I thought to myself, "Wow, these people sure must love their dandelions!" I observed how there was little if any green grass showing through, but since the flowers were not being mowed down, I assumed the owner admired them as well. Little did I know it was the lawn of exasperated owners who simply didn't know what to do with such a lush crop. With as many as you have, you could go into business!

According to one of the best little books I have on wild plants (Botany in a Day by Thomas Elpel) the entire plant is both edible and medicinal. I can attest to the edible nature of the root as last month I got several large ones from my garden, cleaned them, scraped off the tough exterior skin, chopped them into pieces, and boiled them together with the roots of burdock, evening primrose and goatsbeard. The result was absolutely tender, delicious, and quite edible! The trick is to get the roots by mid-spring since they become tougher as they age (just like some people). Adding these delectable roots to a stew of some sort works very well. So Ron, next year I expect to see you out there in your lawn with a weed popper, or perhaps a shovel (as you appear to have wall to wall roots) digging roots for supper!

As for the dandelion leaves, I never did like them, even in early spring when they are most tender. Using them sparingly with other salad greens is good, but to eat them straight, uncooked ... yuck! The bitter taste, however, indicates that it is useful as a digestive aid, according to T. Elpel. However, the leaves and the flower buds are quite palatable if you boil them in two changes of water, adding a bit of butter and salt and pepper. I usually cook a variety of wild greens together, lambs quarters being my very favorite as it is delicious and six times richer in iron then spinach. Most wild edible greens are very rich in vitamins and minerals. You can even eat plantain leaves!

So, nip them in the bud next spring, and you'll have less in your lawn and more vitamins A, B, C, and G in your body!

Medicinally, I cannot go into all its uses here, but briefly, my book tells me that dandelions stimulate the liver, spleen and kidneys, and even aid in dissolving calcium stones. Also, they may possibly lower blood sugar, and the latex sap from the stems is used on warts. Little did you know- you have a pharmaceutical gold mine in your lawn, Ron! Then, of course, there is also the possibility of making dandelion wine with all the flowers like our grandparents did. Of course, this is not medicinal, but it sure can make you feel better. I will research a good recipe for it, or perhaps one of our readers knows one ... then after you make a batch, Ron and Terri, we can all come over to your house for a taste party!

Enough on the "dent de lion" (French for "tooth of the lion"). Stay tuned for next month's article on our wonderful nature hike around the railroad tracks in town on June 21. There are at least forty wildflowers, including some edibles and medicinals, growing there. It is perfect habitat for butterflies and bees, and should be considered a source of pride for the town rather than an eyesore. So, stay tuned!

Read other articles by Christine Maccabee