Friday, April 11, 2008

Dandelion Day

Now that the grass is starting to green up, it won't be long before we see dandelions, with their sunny, opportunistic flowers. I understand that they are considered a weed, but the sight of them in full bloom always makes me smile - I see a kindred spirit in determination and cheerfulness. They are native to Europe and/or Asia and were introduced to New England by the Puritans, to California and Mexico by the Spaniards, and to Canada by the French; they were useful as medicine, as food for honeybees, and as a welcome reminder of home. They are used by herbalists to heal a wide variety of ailments: anti-bacterial, acid neutralizer, gentle diuretic and laxative, blood cleanser and purifier, weight-loss aid, and a general tonic. Dandelion is good for the bladder, kidney, spleen, stomach, intestines, joint pain, and inflammatory skin conditions; it is recommended especially for "stressed-out, internally sluggish and sedentary people". All parts of the dandelion are edible: the greens, picked before the flowers appear, are healthier than spinach; the roots can be dried and used for tea; the flowers can be used to make dandelion cordial or jelly. (Even Martha Stewart has dozens of ideas for cooking with dandelions, including a tasty looking one for dandelion greens and sweet onions.) It all seems like a good reason to celebrate Dandelion Day today, in spite of the disdain of gardeners.

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