The dandelion is surely a plant to be reckoned with – whether you see it as wild flower, weed or herbal pharmacopoeia. You certainly can’t beat them for brightness. Or for persistence.
When I’m wearing my gardener’s hat, which is mostly, their presence in and around the vegetable plots infuriates me, and I gouge them up as soon as I spot them. Yet this is probably counter productive. I’ve read that the plant’s pugnacious tap root thrusts down through unpromising soil and unlocks nutrients from below. A huge advantage then. Also, the roots, if you do dig them up, can be roasted and ground to make a coffee substitute, and though it may not match up to your favourite Arabica, will at least give your liver a good clean out.
The leaves, popularly used in French salads (and inspiring the original name ‘lion’s tooth’ dent de lion) act on the urinary system, hence the many other much ruder old country names: Jack-piss-the-bed, Tiddle-beds, Old man’s clock to mention only a few.
But old country lore aside, scientific studies have shown that the plant is bursting with nutrients: minerals, vitamins and antioxidants. Even the flowers are edible, though apparently tasting best before they open. Well! I did once see a recipe for dandelion flower fritters, and they certainly looked very pretty. Perhaps instead of casting them as villains of the plot, I should welcome them as a most useful, free and therapeutic crop. As with most things in life, much depends on your chosen perspective.
Bright Square #25
I know most of us gardeners curse dandelions, but don’t they look lovely in sepia? Little constellations. Firework bursts. Spreading those all too viable seed parachutes here, there and everywhere. You can’t keep a good weed down.
But these plants do have their uses too. Young leaves are excellent in salads. Dandelion leaf tea has long been used by herbalists to cleanse the kidneys and lower blood pressure, while the root is mainly a liver remedy, helping to boost the immune system. I do quite like dandelion coffee, perverse as this may sound, although it has to be the real roasted roots, and not the instant stuff, and it’s definitely improved with a sprinkle of raw cacao powder, and a pinch of cinnamon.
The plants of course can develop prodigious root systems. The main tap root drills down into the depths of poor soil, and so helps bring up trapped nutrients. This is one of the reasons why they are so darned difficult to dig up – they are so very busy nourishing the ground. Well that’s their story anyway. I have tried roasting the roots to make my own coffee. Very fiddly. A lot of scrubbing. And then I ate the crunchy roasted bits and didn’t have any left to make coffee. They tasted like root vegetable crisps – weird but vaguely compelling.
And I suppose I have to say too (somewhat grudgingly) that the flowers’ bright yellow faces are very cheering, although I was a bit cross to find them already grinning at me up at the allotment. In February, for goodness sake? Please give us a break, dandelions. How about a September blooming instead?
Anyway this is my entry for the last week of Jude’s monochrome garden photo challenge. With this particular composition, I’m also thinking a little of Sue Judd’s negative space challenge over at Paula’s. But please drop in at Jude’s The Earth Laughs In Flowers to see what she and others have been doing with their monochrome compositions. Next Sunday there will be a new theme: garden wild life, and a chance to show off visiting my reptiles. Yay!