In Montana, gardening season is not long if you think in terms of ‘months’, but it is long if you think in terms of ‘day light hours’. From the time the snow melts, the sun gets a bit higher, and the ground softens, you can pretty much find me outside, in the dirt, and loving it.
Our garden in total is a quarter of an acre, raised boxes for vegetables, a raspberry patch, fruit trees, herbs everywhere, some grass that I will to live, lots of lavender, and perennial flowers. We are biodynamic which means no chemicals, we grow our own ‘green manure’ (hairy vetch, comfrey, borage, winter rye), we compost everything from our kitchen and what ever is left over from the garden, and we layer the soil instead of tilling it.
It has been a Shangri-la of sorts for my children and dogs. Safe, healthy, they can graze on pretty much everything, hang with Mom in the dirt, dig wallows to cool off, and it’s beautiful.
And we don’t consider anything a weed. If it grows, and we can eat it, it stays.That includes the almighty dandelion. I recently looked up the definition of a weed, because ‘weed’ as a word has such a negative connotation, and every single chem-lawn company is hell bent on spraying away the dandelion because it is the most horrific of all WEEDS! The horror.
Weed simply refers to a wild plant growing where it is not wanted and in competition with a cultivated plant. That’s it. Really, that is it.
Seriously, I will take a wild edible plant over a cultivated plant any day. There is a reason that you do not need to fertilize or use pesticides to grow dandelions. They have evolved over the past thirty million years, which means that this little golden wonder has learned HOW to survive and thrive all on it’s own. I support that 100%. And personally, I find the dandelion kind of sexy. In my garden, and out of all of the varieties of plants that I grow, my dandelions are the most photographed.
My Grandma was also an avid gardener. While she came from a farming family, her garden was a garden of necessity, a Victory garden. She had eight children to raise during the depression, and relatively no money to speak of. Her entire yard became a production garden, and what they didn’t eat during the season she canned for the long winter. No chemicals, no high tech anything, just get in there and do it.
What I remember most was her love of everything ‘natural’ that grew in her garden. She took it as ‘a gift’ for her hard work. She ate dandelion green salad like a rabbit, in spite of her own family making fun of her.
I remember her Wilted Green Salad that she would make for us kids, it was kind of the ‘gateway salad’ to hook us on wild greens. And it worked. To this day, as I sit here and write and think of it, I start to drool, it was really that good. It went something like this, she would gather a bunch of dandelion greens, some lettuce leaves, some beat greens, and then slice it all up into tiny pieces, and then drizzle hot bacon grease, with a pinch of salt and sugar over the top, and toss. That was it. We could eat bowl after bowl after bowl!
My children have grown up with dandelion greens in their salads, the small unopened flower buds have been their favorite though. I slice them in half, and they look like gems amongst the greens, and fun to eat! And now that smoothies and juicing are a big thing for them, they will blend the dandelion greens into their green juice concoctions. Any healthy choice is good with me, blend away!
From time to time, I will dig up some of the bigger dandelion plants and roast the root for tea. Some people claim it tastes like coffee. If it does taste like coffee to you, then you are use to some pretty bad coffee, I can introduce you to better tasting java for sure! For me the tea is not tasty, I have to augment it with other herb leaves like spearmint or tarragon, and some honey and lemon. I drink it for the medicinal qualities, not the fine flavor.
For my dogs, I use the root that I have roasted, and the fresh leaves in their food. Dandelion is good for digestion, it stimulates bile production in the liver and in turn helps with better liver function, it gives a gentle boost to the immune system, and it is a nutrition super hero.
The humble dandelion is good source of minerals like potassium, calcium, manganese, iron, and magnesium. And check out the vitamins that are currently sitting in your yard for free! For you and your dog.
9% of dietary fiber,
19% of vitamin B-6 (pyridoxine),
20% of Riboflavin,
58% of vitamin C,
338% of vitamin A,
649% of vitamin K,
39% of iron and
19% of calcium.
(Note: RDA-Recommended daily allowance)
To me there is nothing more beautiful than a spring meadow filled with gold. But beyond the beauty I see a thriving, healthy, nutrition packed field that is a gift from Mother Nature herself.
So weed or super hero? I think we should all allow the dandelion to grow where it wants too. Thirty million years is an impressive track record by any standard, so it must be doing something right. Perhaps if we stopped trying to create a super food, and used the super foods that the planet has created for us, we would all be healthier for sure. I say super hero!
Here is to healthy living, healthy children, healthy dogs, and lots of dirt under your nails! ~ Nancy
ps – the other night, one of my clients who is truly and Earth Mama came in with a knife sheath on her belt loop. Inside the sheath was a vegetable peeler. She explained that when she takes her dogs hiking, she will stop and dig up a dandelion, peel the root a bit, and feed it to her dogs. All os her dogs are crazy healthy and happy, so kudos! I thought this was so very cool!
Some more photos I took within walking distance from my home.