Location: Chateaugay Lake, NY
I grasped the base of the plant below its jagged-edged leaves, urging its roots to release their tenacious hold on the dark brown soil. Gotcha! I gave the green and yellow clump a satisfying fling into a nearby wheelbarrow. Dandelions (Taraxacum officinale) have always been the bane of my lawn. By late April, they’ve already poked their annoying yellow blooms above my otherwise green grass. For every dandelion I uproot, three sprout in its place. The cursed yellow flowers grow everywhere, not only around my house, but also along roads, in fields, along hiking trails, even in the sand at the beach! This could be a hopeless war, but I wasn’t ready to wave the white flag. As the general of my attack on dandelions, I decided to get more information about this enemy ground force.
As it turns out, the weed I’ve tried in vain to eradicate is a nutritious herb, valued in Europe and the sub-Indian continent for a myriad of medicinal uses. Though bitter when eaten alone, it is a nutritious enhancement in many recipes, loaded with vitamins A, C, K and B6, potassium, manganese and a number of other important nutrients.
The Chinese and Indians gathered wild dandelions to treat boils, bronchitis, pneumonia and ulcers for centuries, though the Arabs were likely the first to cultivate them. As early as 900 AD, they used the root of the plant as a cure for liver disease. Today herbalists brew dandelions into tea, toast it, mixed it into tinctures, and dry it to derive various health benefits from this common plant such as reducing hypertension and stabilizing mood. Perhaps if I try eating the darn things my mood will improve when I pluck them from my yard.