By Donna Iverson
(Publishers note: N3 welcomes Ms. Iverson who will be joining our contributor team to regale readers with helpful hints, timely tips, informative insights and occasional anecdotal offerings from the wondrous world of gardening.)
I'll bet you’re cringing ...aren't those dandelions the weeds that plague your lawn?
Turns out, that the new trend of gardening for pollinators is raising the status of that much hated invader. The dandelion is the first food source that keeps bees alive in the early spring. And your garden needs pollinators to grow food
Gardeners are learning that the lowly dandelion is not only good food for pollinators like bees, butterflies and ladybugs, it's also good people food. The spring leaves can be added to salads, the flowers can be used to make dandelion wine and beer, and the roots can be roasted to make a coffee-like mate.
And you will never starve as long as you can harvest dandelions. The combination of leaves, flowers and roots provide a complete protein . Furthermore, it's free and it can be found literally everywhere . But you want to be sure it hasn't been sprayed with herbicides or pesticides. So the best place to grow it is in your organic garden.
Not only will the dandelion feed you and the pollinators, it will feed your garden soil.
The dandelion root will aerate and mineralize your soil. Earth worms will become more plentiful. What's not to like here?
If you are into native plants, dandelions are not natives. The seeds were carried over to the Americas by the colonists who had used dandelions as food, medicines and a spring tonic. Once in North America, Native Americans also began to cultivate this perennial vegetable including our own Michigan Potawatomis, who concocted a bitter spring tonic from the leaves.
If you do decide to reserve a section of your garden for dandelion cultivation, the plant likes full sun. It is disease and insect resistant and drought tolerant. So you don't have to worry about watering it to keep it alive.
Check the Internet for hundreds of dandelion recipes. But do be cautious for a possible allergy to the plant. Test it by taking a small leaf and press it to your lips. If no reaction, bite off a tiny piece and chew it. Then spit it out. Later try eating a tiny piece of leaf. Finally check with your pharmacist to be sure dandelion doesn't interfere with any medications you are taking. Finally, dandelion is not recommended for people with gallbladder problems.
In conclusion, not only are dandelions good for you, for pollinators and your garden, they are good for your brain. Rethinking the formerly despised plant may just lead you to what the Buddhists call "beginner's mind".... Learning to see old things in a new way, as if seeing them for the first time.