By Manfried Rieder
Most people look for Robins, Snowdrops or other fine signs of spring but I lust for the first Dandelion. I know it is the bane of everyone who wants a lush green lawn and millions of Americans are ready to go to the annual Dandelion wars with shovels, picks, chainsaws or Dynamite. Thousands of articles are written about how to eradicate this plant, Millions are spent on weed killing chemicals to combat the pesty flower.
Why I ask? What did that poor Dandelion ever do to you to deserve such maltreatment. I think it is a phobia and psychiatrists could get rich analyzing this phenomenon. Just because our neighbor does not have any yellow spots in his lawn does not make me an offender to civic orderliness. At my former house in Sutton I had a huge lawn and nice large garden and my lawn was full of Dandelions. I love to look at the lush yellow field, it takes very little maintenance and even after I did my every-other-week mowing, the yellow was back within days, newly minted golden stars shone brightly even if my lawn was not watered every day. Everyone else's turf started to brown in the Summer heat but not mine. The Dandelions provided enough shade for the surrounding grass to protect it somewhat and when we had a deluge of rain, those feisty tap roots took care of the flooding.
What a great plant. I have always advocated Dandelion as an alternate crop. Think about it - corn or tomatoes will suck every micro-ounce of nutrients from the soil and if you would alternate the acres with Dandelions, they are so chock-full of nitrates, fiber and other healthy minerals, they could simply be plowed under and in the next season the earth would be healthy and fruitful again.
I know, neighboring home owners would probably call for aerial spraying if a farmer would be courageous enough to have a few hundred acres of yellow gold growing but what fun to see all the little seeds fly through the air. Kids would be in seventh heaven to watch that continuous air-show.
Also, the lowly Dandelion is one of the most healthful plants on this planet. Every part of it is edible, the greens make superb salads which I prefer to a lot of over-hyped greens. When the young flower pods appear, I pick jar fulls of them and pickle them in cider vinegar. This makes a lovely alternative to capers and we sprinkle it into salads or pasta sauces. The roots make a good tea full of minerals and vitamins and they can also be dried and roasted and used as "ersatz" coffee. Just imagine what this plant could do in poorly irrigated areas of Africa or China? Free salad every day for everyone and a visual delight in almost any setting.
Now if the snow would just go away. I can barely wait to greet my first Dandelion of the year.