Every Monday I perform a morning ritual dedicated to renewal and rejuvenation for the week. I wake early and go out into my backyard garden to weed the dandelions for my boyfriend who will follow soon after to irrigate the burgeoning produce he so meticulously grows for our meals. From beneath the favas and between the rosemary and out from the shaded areas underneath the grape ardor, I will dig deeply to pluck the little buggers from their beds, aborting their ravage before they flower and shed, careful to retrieve leaves, gnarled roots and all. The smaller ones that are newly green will be washed and saved between damp paper towels for my lunchtime salad—perfect bitter accompaniments much like arugula, for tossing in with other artisanal lettuces and nuggets of sweet cranberry and chopped almonds. The roots will get snipped and laid to dry for a few hours until they are shriveled and ready for a few minutes of roasting in the toaster oven to bring out their dank flavors. Then I will toss them into a pot of water to boil and simmer for at least forty-five minutes. What ensues is a slightly bitter tea that I will drink throughout the day, inhaling the earthy scent deep into my nose as I feel the flush of minerals infiltrating my body. What so many others consider a pesky and frustrating weed, I use weekly as a multivitamin green tonic, source of dense calcium and heavy liver cleanser.
I discovered the magic of dandelions while answering a questionnaire in my herb class about what I drink. I mentioned that I like to have my wine with meals and my teacher answered me with an exuberant response: “Make sure to eat lots of dandelion greens and you can enjoy wine in moderation entirely!” Little did I know that a weed could help me balance the effects of imbibing responsibly.
Although dandelions can typically be found in many varieties at farmer’s markets, there is nothing that compares to personal foraging for your greens. Herbs, weeds and other greens deliver their true potency within the body when a few considerations are maximized. One, when you pick herbs from your own property or geographic region, they are said to be made up of similar organic constituents that you are! That’s right, you are breathing the same air, living in the same space, and therefore developing certain similarities in your molecular makeup. This means that they symbiotically mesh within your system easier than ingredients that have come from another place entirely. Secondly, when you pick herbs and greens from places you are familiar with, you can be more assured of their safety. Who wants to eat greens picked by the side of a road where buses and cars whiz by consistently, delivering exhaust fumes and other carcinogenic variables into the surrounding air streams. Lastly, when you pick your own herbs from your own environment, you are contributing to the philosophy of sustainability—only using what you have without expending extra resources and energy to get it from its place of origin to your kitchen. It may not be possible to apply these principles with many things, but when the dandelion weed is in universal supply and grows everywhere it would be a shame not to utilize its multipurpose properties.
I bet if you went outside right this minute you’d find your own plethora of dandelion greens growing somewhere nearby. Instead of cursing their existence in your manicured lawn, why not pick a few to throw in to your afternoon smoothie?
Article Written by Kimberly Nichols
Newtopia Editor Kimberly Nichols is an artist, writer, social anthropologist and healer living in Los Angeles, California. Her conceptual works, literary fiction and creative nonfiction have been exhibited and published internationally. She is the author of the critically acclaimed collection of short stories Mad Anatomy (Del Sol Press, 2005) and is currently working on her second book. She is the owner of Tapping the Inner Palette, a company which utilizes the intuitive, spiritual, creative and healing arts to help people rediscover the inherent voice within as well as bring their authentic selves to fruition. She can be reached at Kimberly@newtopiamagazine.org.