Living on the Earth, March 10, 2000: Spring and Dandelions
It wouldn't be spring without dandelions. But what is a welcome sight for
some, is an enemy and profit opportunity for others.
"The dandelion is one of the most useful and important herbs for treating
cancer patients," according to a certified nutritionist and clinical master
herbalist from Norwalk.
Yet the lawn care industry maintains that we should dedicate ourselves to
killing dandelions with 2,4-D or some other broadleaf plant killer.
Unfortunately, 2,4-D has been shown in National Cancer Institute studies to
increase lymphomas and other cancers in humans and has also been connected
to cancer in dogs.
It's a measure of our culture's rampant disconnection from nature that
there's a full-scale attack on the dandelion (which might treat cancer)
using an herbicide which causes cancer.
I've known for a long time that dandelion leaves are a very tasty source of
vitamin A, potassium and calcium. They're delicious as a snack, in a salad
or sauteed in a stir-fry. Their flavor is best in the early spring before
the beautiful yellow flowers appear.
Those bright yellow flowers make a wonderful wine. We usually produce
several gallons from the many blooms around our house. About one gallon of
flowers makes a gallon of wine.
Dandelion root is a diuretic. As such, it may be useful for premenstrual
syndrome, high blood pressure and congestive heart failure. It is said to
be good for the liver and to help prevent gallstones, too.
Dandelions also provide important benefits to the ecosystem. Honeybees and
at least 92 other insects collect its nectar and/or pollen. Birds are fond
of its seeds. Its deep tap roots aerate the soil, bring up nutrients and
are valuable to earthworms.
Yet, even after several decades of defending the dandelion from ignorant
and toxic attacks by lawn chemical producers, distributors, advertisers and
applicators, my appreciation of this so-called "weed" is still growing.
Just how and when did the dandelion become our dreaded enemy?
Greed and ignorance are most likely to blame. Those who made fortunes
providing the government with the chemical weapon Agent Orange during the
Vietnam War, wanted to continue to profit from selling their poisons when
the war ended. They converted their manufacturing facilities to civilian
use, and the dandelion, a standout with its bright and cheery yellow
flowers, seemed like a good target for 2,4-D, one half of Agent Orange.
Unfortunately, in their push for profits, herbicide manufacturers and
retailers have used simple-minded advertisements to brainwash a whole
generation into believing that dandelions are the enemy.
Meanwhile, drug companies comb the world's rainforests in search of some
magic substance which they can isolate and duplicate in their laboratories,
and then sell to cancer patients. In the long run, however, it's in our
best interest to encourage understanding of local healing plants and
knowledge of their use.
This spring, reject industry brainwashing and "Just Say No" to herbicides!
Learn about the beauties and benefits of weeds, particularly dandelions.
If you'd like organic lawn care information, go to http://ct.nofa.org and
select New NOFA Landcare Information, (directly via
http://www.connix.com/~nofact/nofact-landcare.html). My dandelion wine
recipe is at www.wshu.org/duesing. For a hard copy of both, send a
stamped, self-addressed envelope to Dandelions, WSHU, 5151 Park Avenue,
Fairfield, CT 06432.
This is Bill Duesing, Living on the Earth
(C) 2000, Bill Duesing, Solar Farm Education, Box 135, Stevenson, CT 06491
Bill and Suzanne Duesing operate the Old Solar Farm (raising NOFA/CT
certified organic vegetables) and Solar Farm Education (working on urban
agriculture projects in southern Connecticut and producing "Living on the
Earth" radio programs). Their collection of essays "Living on the Earth:
Eclectic Essays for a Sustainable and Joyful Future" is available from Bill
Duesing, Box 135, Stevenson, CT 06491 for $10 postpaid or from Amazon.com.
Now in its tenth year, "Living on the Earth" airs at 6:53 Friday mornings
on WSHU, 91.1 FM Public Radio, serving Connecticut and Long Island. Essays
from 1995 to the present, and an audio version of this week's essay are
available at www.wshu.org/duesing.
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