If I were to give this summer a color it would be yellow. That’s because it seems that everywhere I have looked over the past few weeks there has been an abundance of dandelions. Many are going to seed now, but there are still plenty in flower.
It may surprise you that the dandelion is not native to North America. It’s native to Eurasia but has been deliberately introduced to North America for its food and medicinal value. Since ancient times the leaves, roots, and flowers were eaten in several ways, and it has been used medicinally to treat a variety of maladies from skin disorders to tuberculosis.
Dandelion has escaped cultivation to become naturalized here in the United States as well as most other temperate regions around the globe. As all of us know, it has adapted well, and has become one of the most persistent weeds of lawns, golf courses, meadows, road ditches, and disturbed areas.
“Dandelion” is a corruption of the French phrase “dents de lion” or teeth of the lion. That’s a reference to the large serrated leaves. It has also been known as milk witch, blowball, and the rather unusual name of wet-the-bed. Young dandelion leaves can be eaten raw in salads or cooked like spinach, but because the leaves act as a diuretic, eating too many before bed can have some unpleasant side affects. So if you eat some of these greens, just don’t eat too many before bed. I suppose you could just eat a smaller amount before bed. That might even provide you with a reliable “alarm clock.”
I wonder if kids these days smear dandelion flowers on their friends’ faces. Some might say that “Trix are for kids,” but I’m convinced that dandelions are the real thing. After all, kids can use them to smear faces, throw blossoms around, make a flower stalk bracelet, see if they can blow all the seeds off the seedhead with one breath, and make bouquets. I certainly hope all this fun hasn’t been lost to our younger generation.
All this fun aside, it’s amazing all the time and money we spend to get ride of dandelions. But I must admit that life would be a little duller without them. Whether you’re young, or young-at-heart, have a little fun with dandelions this summer.
Natural North Dakota is supported by NDSU Central Grasslands Research Extension Center and Dakota College at Bottineau, and by the members of Prairie Public. Thanks to Sunny 101.9 in Bottineau for their recording services.
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