Dandelion Fields Forever
It’s the time of year in Southeast Alaska where the sun has finally warmed our cold, wet, wintery bones and the sun has baked into the soil enough to coax out all the fresh bright greens of springtime. Perhaps my favorite sight of spring are the pops of bright golden yellow that have begun to burst open and grow to the size of small saucers along the roadsides and front yards.
My friends, I’m talking about the cheerful, radiant, sticky, resinous, milky-stemmed dandelion! Yes, that plant that you probably spent hours fighting to dig out with a spade and a bucket in your parent’s back yard as a child – or maybe out of your own yard as an adult? Do you know that these sunny harbingers of spring are not just gold of color, but actually solid gold plant material?!
It’s true, the dandies pack a powerful herbal punch, and I want to share with you some of my favorite ways to celebrate spring and indulge in the golden waves that I have come to welcome in my yard.
SPRING GREENS: Dandelion greens are chock full of Vitamins A, K, and C, plus a source of calcium and other trace minerals. These tasty little numbers are best enjoyed while they’re young and tender and go great sautéed in olive oil with garlic, sea salt, and a grind of black pepper. Take it to the next level with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. If you’re a juicer or a smoothie-er throw them in on your next blend! Drop them in a fresh spring soup and feel like a wildcrafting badass, cause you just pulled those greens straight outta the backyard.
YELLOW BLOOMS: More than just the original schoolyard tattoo ink (anybody else use dandelion blossoms to brand each other as kids?), dandelion flowers make a delightful snack item when cooked up properly. Try this recipe for crispy crunchy dandelion fritters from the queen of domesticity herself, Ms. Martha Stewart. And if you’re really into self-reliance, or really into drinking wine, dandelion blooms can make a tasty wild homemade wine.
But probably most importantly, the dandelion blossoms are one of the first sources of food for our beloved bee friends when they venture out into the new spring world. Our bees get legitimately drunk off the sweet nectar of the dandies, so I make sure to leave plenty of blossoms around for those nectar-hounds.
TAPROOT: The true wonder of the dandelion is its remarkable ability to drill down into the most unwelcoming of soils and pull up the myriad nutrients it needs to thrive (and pass on to us via aforementioned greens). The dandelion root digs deep and contributes to building soil, as it breaks up compacted earth and deposits nutrients through the plant at the surface. The root also provides us a delicious naturally caffeine-free coffee substitute when roasted, ground up, and prepared as a tea.
Get to know your friendly neighbor dandelion this spring/summer; don’t be so quick to break out the mower and chop their vibrant heads off. And for Pete’s sake PLEASE don’t bust out the herbicides on these friends, or any other plant friends for that matter! Be sure to harvest from clean areas away from roadsides and chemically sprayed yards, and never take more than you need. Love thy earth, and she shall love you back. Happy spring, happy dandelion hunting!