Take a New Look at Dandelions
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
URBANA, Ill. - Earth Day falls every year on April 22.
Rhonda Ferree, a University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator,
recommends using the day to reflect about our world around us.
April 1, 2014
"You might even try to look at a small piece of our world
from a completely different viewpoint," she said. "Take dandelions, for
example. To many people the dandelion is a weedy pest that invades our lawns,
but other people find many positive attributes in the plant.
"Kids love dandelions and
enjoy collecting masses of blooms to give to their mothers. As a mother, I
equally enjoy receiving the clumps of yellow blooms. My sons Derek and Tyler
routinely gave me dandelions, and I loved every one. They don't last long, but
the thought is what really matters," Ferree said.
Kids also love the seed heads that follow flowers. Who can't
remember blowing dandelions and watching them float on the breeze?
"Dandelions actually have several uses, including culinary,
medicinal, cosmetic, and commercial," she said. "For at least 1,000 years, the
dandelion has been in constant use as both a food and a medicine. Like so many
plants, its origins were in the Mediterranean regions of Europe and Asia
History shows that the dandelion was brought to this country
for its culinary uses. There are even books that detail how to grow this "new"
"About four pounds of seed to the acre should be allowed,
sown in drills, one foot apart. The yield should be four or five tons of fresh
roots to the acre in the second year," Ferree said.
Can you picture an entire field of dandelions?
Today dandelions are used commercially in the United States.
Large quantities of the plant's leaves are used as fresh spring greens in many
ethnic grocery stores and supermarkets.
"Dandelion roots are domestically grown for use in patent
medicines, and more than 100,000 pounds are imported annually to fulfill the
pharmaceutical needs," Ferree said.
In addition to the leaves, dandelions are cooked as a
potherb or infused as a tea. One source said that it's the dandelion flowers
that pack a wallop. Yes, the flowers are also edible.
"My grandma used to fry them like mushrooms in the early
spring, and I enjoyed eating them," Ferree said.
Pamela Jones, the author of Just Weeds, said, "If you
have never tasted dandelion herbal wine, it is one of the most elusive,
delicately fragrant flavors imaginable, the color pure liquid gold."
So look at the dandelion differently on Earth Day. You might
even celebrate the day with a salad of dandelion greens followed by fried
flower heads and a glass of dandelion wine.
"Supposedly the best dandelions are found where no lawn
mower has touched them," she said. "But it is of utmost importance to look for
a lawn that has not been sprayed if you plan to eat from it."
Source: Rhonda J. Ferree, Extension Educator, Horticulture & State Master Naturalist Coordinator, firstname.lastname@example.org