Dandelions

Garden Clippings for July 22, 2017

There wasn’t a weed in sight.   The college campus I visited in Chicago last week had lush grounds with dark green grass stretching from football field to dorms to library to chapel, to admin buildings and all points in between.  Not a weed to be found.

In the USA there is no ban on pesticides similar to Ontario’s Cosmetic Pesticide Act, put in place nearly a decade ago.  While certain pesticides such as DDT are banned in United States, herbicides such as those under name brands of Killex and Roundup are readily available for any homeowner to purchase and apply at will.

Yet, during my visit to Chicago I saw signs of a growing respect for environmental issues.  At the same college campus there was a newly developed area, about half an acre, left to its own devices.  And along the carefully manicured downtown waterfront near Millennium Park and Navy Pier there were a few areas set aside as naturalized.   I suspect that as time goes on Americans will see more parks and public areas with weeds in the grass, but I also suspect that under the current political regime, a ban on pesticides will not come anytime soon.

In the world of lawn weeds, Dandelions always rise to the top.  Dandelions are hated because they spread and reproduce rapidly, choking out desirable grasses along the way.  Dandelions are easy to control with pesticides, but difficult to get rid of when pulling out by hand.  Their long carrot-type tap root is a built- in defence mechanism.

Before we write off the lowly dandelions, we would be wise to take note of their positive attributes.  Dandelions are actually good for soil.  Their deep tap roots pull nutrients from below, adding fertility to the soil surface.  Their roots loosen hard soil and make life easier for worms to get around.

Above the soil, when Dandelions are flowering they are a happy host for bees and other pollinators.  Each flower holds nectar and pollen, a good food source for many insects.  And after flowers diminish, finches and sparrows feast on the seeds.

In the kitchen, dandelions are quickly gaining notoriety.  Their greens are high in fibre and contain high levels of vitamin C and countless beneficial nutrients for food and medicinal value.

Cook and use Dandelions in the same way as you would use spinach.  Health food enthusiasts will use the greens for salads or cooked on the stove.  Roots, stems and flowers are kept to make a delicious and healthy tea.