Around the Nation
A column by Tom Van Dusen
I took a furtive look around, checking if any other walkers were close by. The coast was clear!
As I often do, I was strolling Prescott’s River Walk trail Sunday morning below Fort Wellington. I reached down, plucked it, stuffed it into my mouth, and started chewing: Tasteless, kind of dry, light fuzzy texture! I started to think of raw kale and how it’s almost impossible to swallow. I wondered if this would be the same?
I spit out the by now mushy blob. I had just munched a sunny dandelion flower. I wanted to see what all the dandelions-as-health-food fuss was about. Thankfully, there were no witnesses: “Is that Old Tom grazing over there along the trail? Might be time for an intervention!” Hey… it’s pure journalistic research!
At least when it comes to the flowers, raw might not be the best way to consume the little dandies which blanket the countryside and urban areas… especially when there are so many more palatable ways of doing it, including in my sister-in-law Joan’s mild lemony jelly.
The common dandelion! Dismissed as a nuisance weed by many but admired as a useful herb by botanists and others in the know!
Those who want dandelions gone will go to any length to banish them, including using potentially toxic chemicals. A few weeks ago I watched, fascinated, as a guy with a long-handled plucker and a determined look individually pulled and discarded the cheerful flowers from his yard. How anal! Don’t most of us have something better to do?
Especially in the COVID-19 era when we’re all searching for pure food sources closer to home! Here’s a delicious, nutritious golden buffet waiting right out in your front yard!
With the yellow heads intermingling with carpets of green — the slope below Prescott’s Fort Wellington is a good illustration — it’s full-blown dandelion season. After Joan posted on Face Book about making delicious dandelion jelly, I just had to speak out in defense of the cute, dandy herbs and conduct the aforementioned raw research.
I went on Facebook, first praising Joan for her jelly and hoping as her self-appointed favourite brother-in-law for a sample. She grudgingly offered me a taste and posted her recipe on my FB stream. Other responses were equally gratifying with friends reminding that dandelions offer early sustenance for pollinators of every stripe.
The list of dandy nutritional and medicinal attributes is extensive… excessive even! They’re edible from their flowery tops to their taproots in a variety of concoctions including wine, tea, salad, and, of course, jelly. They’re a good source of antioxidants and have a wide range of healing properties that can help regulate cholesterol, blood sugars and pressure, inflammation, and can boost the immune system.
FB friends rallied in support of dandelions, starting with Monique Bloomfield (perfect name!) who invited me to harvest from her front lawn. Ninety-year-old Anne Carter boasted that she has enjoyed dandy jelly and, back in the UK, “plenty” of dandy wine. Greg Daub added to that image: “There’s no pain after two bottles of dandelion wine!”
Ron Wood still watches for the first dandelion of spring and never comprehended the dandy wars. “I can’t understand why anyone puts energy into getting rid of them,” Judie Martin observed.
Laura Mac likes the way the maligned flower looks too, calling it the “prettiest” if cut before it seeds. And Aimee Legrow underlined many health benefits for the heart and liver.
I’m certainly convinced and have been remiss on not normally dining out on dandelions. Now excuse me while I head back to the River Walk trail!