I was walking down the street yesterday when I heard someone call out to me, "Dandelion lover!" I figured this compliment must have something to do with the letter I wrote to the editor of our newspaper recently. I shared this letter on Facebook and it was so popular I thought it deserved a spot on my website.
This is easily my favorite time in the Methow Valley. The golden flowers of our native arrowleaf change our hillsides to gold while my favorite weed covers our lawns in little golden buttons.
It might sound strange to have a favorite weed, but dandelion has so many virtues that it’s an easy choice. The tender spring dandelion leaves are full of nutrients, including vitamin C, vitamin K1, potassium, magnesium and beta-carotene. It’s a time-honored tradition in many countries in Europe to pick those spring dandelion greens and eat them, not only for their valuable nutrition, but also for their ability to stimulate healthy digestion.
Dandelion roots are similarly nutrient-dense and are currently being studied for their ability to prevent and address many types of cancer. Those beautiful golden dandelion flowers can be made into fritters, dandelion jelly, a deliciousdandelion wine, or even a salve for relieving aches and pains.
Because this is such a delicious and health-promoting plant it completely confounds me that so many people despise it. Instead of rushing out with their harvesting tools to enjoy this free food and medicine, they spray harmful chemicals to kill them. Many of those herbicides are proven to promote cancer and poison our soils and waters.
Each year over 80 million pounds of herbicides are used on people’s lawns. While many of those herbicides have not been tested for safety, there are others that have been shown to have a high correlation with cancers. Children and developing fetuses are at the highest risk.
But humans aren’t the only ones effected.
Dandelions are some of the earliest blooms and are an important source of food for another favorite non-native: honey bees. Bees, insects and birds are also highly susceptible to these herbicides. Herbicides that are used on dandelions have been strongly implicated in the collapse of the bees. Without bees, we don’t have pollinated flowers turning into fruits and vegetables.
When I think about people spraying 80 million pounds of herbicides a year to eradicate a beautiful and beneficial plant I can’t help but wonder, are we insane?
Why is there all this hatred against dandelions? Because lawns should be “pure?” Because dandelions make an area look “unkempt?” Are those good enough reasons to poison our beautiful valley? I say it’s time to end our war on dandelions and embrace them for the many benefits they so freely offer.
Rosalee is an herbalist and author of the bestselling book Alchemy of Herbs: Transform Everyday Ingredients Into Foods & Remedies That Heal. She's a registered herbalist with the American Herbalist Guild and the Education Director for LearningHerbs. Read about how Rosalee went from having a terminal illness to being a bestselling author in her full story here.