By G. Bosley a.k.a “groundhog”

Sow 4 lbs. of seed to the acre and yield 4 to 5 tons of fresh roots per acre in the second year.  What a remarkable crop.

This plant is harvested in large quantities to supply fresh spring greens to many ethnic grocery stores and supermarkets.  The United States imports over 100,000 lbs. for use in patent medicines.  For over 1,000 years this plant has been in constant use as both a food and a medicine.

In 1485 it was referred to as “lion’s tooth’ because of the shape of the leaves.  The Irish called it “heart-fever-grass” because of its ability as a bitter to ease heartburn.

Over the centuries there has been no temperate zone north of the equator where this plant does not grow.  It was once recognized as a plant which would flower most of the year, especially if the winter was not extremely cold.  The greens stimulate both the liver and kidneys, assisting digestion and promoting the elimination of toxins.  The leaves also have a nutritional punch, containing the same amount of iron as spinach but much higher nutritional values in calories, carbohydrates, fat, fibre, sodium, calcium, phosphorus, pro-vitamin A, thiamine and riboflavin.  The leaves also contain a large dose of Vitamin C and magnesium.  Vitamins B and niacin are also found within the plant.  No part of the plant is poisonous.

As soon as the snow melts and the ground-hugging rossette of long, jagged green leaves appear it is time to begin to harvest.  Although the leaves are tart and slighly bitter, they are delicious in salads.  There is only a window of about two weeks for harvesting; once the flower stalks begin to sprout the entire plant becomes unpleasantly bitter.

The crown and very young rosette of leaves can be steamed and used as a vegetable.  The greens are great for on a sandwich.

The root is best if no more than one year old and dug in September or October.  These can be prepared for dinner by washing, peeling, slicing crosswise and boiling, or steamed like parsnip, or fried. The roots can be dried and later used for an herbal tea, ground into powder, or used as a coffee substitute.

A truly delicately flavoured herbal wine is made from the flowers; the colour is pure liquid gold.

Pioneers allowed the plant to flourish as a food source for bees.  Today it is still ranked high among honey-producing plants.  The flower produces great stores of pollen and nectar.  It has been observed that no fewer than 93 different kinds of insects feed off the flower.

So where do you find such a wonderful plant?  In lawns, fields, meadows, waste places and along the roadsides.  But hurry before it disappears.  The yellow flower has come upon hard times in this modern age.  Modern man bares his claws at the site of this plant and out comes the diggers, herbicides, propane heaters, hot water, vinegar and a variety of other weapons to wage the war.

Taraxacum officinale  a.k.a.  “The Dandelion”

I welcome your comments.

www.rootsandshootsdesign.ca

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