A few weeks ago, the dandelions started popping up–in yards, fields, along the side of the roads–everywhere. Soon after, I noticed the little red flags showing up in yards that signified the application of pesticides to kill the weeds, like dandelions. This belief that many of us have come to accept as “the right thing to do”; that is, killing the weeds in our yards so that the lawns are “clean” and green, no longer makes so much sense to me anymore. When we spray pesticides, we not only kill the “weeds”, but we contaminate the soil and often kill the organisms that make the soil strong, dynamic and rich. Dirt is not inert, it is actually the result of the breakdown of rocks and minerals combined with the waste products produced by decomposing plants and living, thriving organisms and the activities of the organisms themselves. Yet, when we apply pesticides, we actually do harm to the beneficial bugs, bacteria, worms, etc., and weaken the soil. We also produce a harmful environment for the birds, bees, squirrels, rabbits, and other animals that pass through the yard. Not to mention us!
Why this makes even less sense to me is that so many of the plants we consider weeds are actually a valuable source of nutrition. Take dandelions, for example. Their greens are a rich source of blood-cleaning chlorophyll, dietary fiber and vitamins A, C, E, K (over 500% the RDA in a one cup serving!), thiamin, riboflavin, and B6, as well as calcium, iron, potassium, manganese, folate, magnesium, phosphorous, and copper. They also have liver-regenerating properties. This time of year, this plant is ubiquitous and quite literally gold at our fingertips. In addition, we don’t need cultivate or care for them. They just show up for our benefit but we’ve decided somewhere along the line that they’re unsightly and unwelcome–and weeds. In fact, this led me to think that the idea of what constitutes a weed is an example of a belief and not necessarily “what is”. In other words, what we consider weeds are those plants that show up where we don’t want them or are not as pretty as we would like and this idea is simply based on our perspective and what we feel is important. For so many, a perfectly manicured, green lawn is a priority. And for others, dandelions are a source of healthy food and they welcome them in their yards. As for me, I actually like the spray of color that a yellow dandelion adds to a green background. Yet, the best time to pick the greens is before the flower buds, when the leaves are young and tender. If they were picked at this stage, it would eliminate the stem and flower that most people don’t want to see popping up in their yards, although the flowers are edible as well.
I haven’t yet picked dandelion greens, but I prepared some the other day. I washed and dried them, cut off about an inch from the bottom of the stems, chopped them into three to four equal sized lengths, then just sautéed them in some coconut oil (they sauté very quickly!) and added some minced garlic, Himalayan salt and some cracked pepper at the end. They were delicious and I plan to eat them more often as long as they're in season.
P.S. If you decide to pick your own dandelions, please don't pick those them from the side of the road or on property where you're unsure if it's been treated with pesticides. The best place to forage for them is in fields or forests that are far removed from buildings, roads, and landscaped properties.