“Dandelions, like all things in nature, are beautiful when you take time to pay attention to them.”June Stoyer
Here on the St. Lawrence River, the northern border of New York State, dandelions are among the first plants to sprout up at the onset of spring. Their bright yellow blooms are a welcome sight following months of snow and ice.
When I see a yard full of bright yellow flowers, I marvel at their beauty. However, most people see them as a nuisance, further declaring they must be exterminated or weeded out. But there is more to the dandelion than you think, and lately more people are starting to realize this.
Our European ancestors valued and cultivated dandelions. They brought them to the North American colonies for their nutritional and medicinal qualities. It wasn’t until the 20th century that dandelions fell from favor and became regarded as weeds.
They are valuable to the ecosystem. Bees and butterflies depend on them early in spring for an important source of pollen and nectar. Additionally, their flowers and seeds provide nutrition for hundreds of insect and bird species.
Dandelions can live over 10 years in the wilderness. They open their flowers during the day and close them at night.
They are considered a pioneer plant species because they can grow in even the harshest environments. They are very hardy and often times seen as one of the first to grow after an area of land is destroyed or burned.
The flower is used to flavor dandelion wine, a sweet, herbal country wine.
During my childhood, I frequently saw my mother digging up dandelions around the yard in our rural hillside abode. She boiled the long green leaves and served them salted and buttered.
They pack a punch of essential vitamins, to include vitamins A, B, C, D and K. Additionally, they contain vitamin E and folate.
They also contain impressive amounts of iron, calcium, magnesium and potassium, all of which are considered lacking in the standard American diet.
They can be eaten cooked or raw. I find dandelion greens too bitter for my liking to eat straight up, so we integrate them in a mixed greens salad. Also, we chop them up and add them to scrambled eggs and soups.
* If you plan to harvest your own dandelions, make sure they have not been treated with pesticides or herbicides. Also, it is not advised to get them from dog parks or road sides.*
Dandelions have been used for over a thousand years in traditional Chinese and Native American medicine. Their flowers, leaves and roots have also been used by the ancient Egyptians and Greeks.
One can find dandelion in the vitamin supplement aisles in various forms including powders, tablets, and teas.
Some of the touted health benefits include:
- Lower cholesterol
- Lower blood pressure
- Liver detoxification
- Boosts immune system
- Promotes kidney health
- Improves gut health
- Enhances digestion
- Control weight
Interestingly, there has not been much formal research to back these health claims.
This is just a snippet of details about the very interesting and under-appreciated dandelion. If you are interested in learning more, check out these sites:
So the next time your yard is filled with dandelions, kindly appreciate what they are adding to the environment!
Thank you for reading! – Barb, the River Blogger (Btrb)
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