Written by Rhonda Ferree, retired horticulture educator
Earth Day falls every year on April 22. I find that Earth Day is a great time to reflect on our world around us.
You might even try to look at a small piece of our world from a completely different viewpoint. 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.
Kids also love the seed heads that follow flowers. Who can't remember blowing dandelions and watching them float on the breeze?
Dandelions have several uses, including culinary, medicinal, cosmetic, and commercial. For at least 1,000 years, the dandelion has been in constant use as both a food and medicine. Like so many plants, its origins were in the Mediterranean regions of Europe and Asia Minor.
History shows that the dandelion came to this country for its culinary uses. There are even books that detail how to grow this "new" crop. "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."
Today dandelions are used commercially in the United States. All parts of the dandelion are edible. 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.
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.
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 lawnmower has touched them. But, it is of utmost importance to look for a lawn without chemical applications, if you plan to eat it.
MEET THE AUTHOR
As horticulture educator, Rhonda Ferree inspired citizens in local communities to grow their own food and improve their home landscapes. She focused on high quality, impactful programs that taught homeowners how to create energy-efficient landscapes using sustainable practices that increase property values and help the environment.
After 30 years with University of Illinois Extension, Rhonda retired in 2018. She continues to share her passion for horticulture related topics as “Retro Rhonda” on social media.
ABOUT THE BLOG
ILRiverHort is a blog that helps people connect to nature and grow.