I have not been able to look at a Dandelion the same way since 2010. It was two years before the herbalist moved in but her teachings of this most common, local herb had one of the most prolific effects on my botanical mind.
I have always loved plants and grew up hiking through forests, working on farms and studying/protecting plants in the Northeastern and Southwestern parts of our country. I have always understood their necessity to our ecosystems and the health of our world. That said, and despite this appreciation for our natural world, I was still rather robotic when it came to dealing with what I then considered ‘weeds.’
It was easy to decipher which plants belonged and which did not (in those days) in prepping and grooming a garden patch or the farm tomato beds or my parents front sidewalk. Like a well-oiled machine I systematically would remove dandelion after dandelion (roots and all) and other ‘weeds’ to make way for other natives to grow. These same yellow, golden-flowered herbs would be yanked and discarded into yard waste bins and compost piles to decay away.
When I moved into my city home in 2008, I had the pleasure of re-landscaping our tiny back and front yards. In my attempt beautify the gardens I replaced what was once sod-grass with a series of native perennials and evergreens. In the process I also tended the garden and removed any and all, obvious weeds including the omni-present dandelion – once dubiously dubbed ‘king’ of the weeds.
That is until I met the herbalist, and that same herbalist moved in. Through her, I quickly learned the varied uses of this common sidewalk plant. As someone who prides himself on cleaning my plate or making use of the whole animal, I also love the fact that one can make use of an entire dandelion. The leaves can be used as tasty greens for any salad, the flower heads are a sweet garnish for any plate, and the entire plant can be ground into one of my favorite morning drinks – dandy-blend. (Try it warm with a bit of coconut milk!)
The dandelion alone is one of many weeds that one could turn into a common meal around the spring and summer. The list goes on and on but I will save this list for future posts, and those herbalists teaching at Herbstalk….
Today, if you drop by my garden you will find it much wilder looking than when I first moved in, with dandelions scattered about. I look at them even today as I write this and they seem so different now from when we were first introduced many years ago. They sprout up around March and April, announcing the arrival of spring all through the garden and around the foundation of my home. While I leave most (if not all) in place, I still pick dandelions from time to time. I wash them, dry them and they eventually end up in my kitchen and then in my belly.