The birds are singing, last fall’s leaves and debris have emerged from melted slow, and worms have escaped the soggy soil to dry out above ground. About the only green visible against the brown equinoctial earth are those recognizable rosettes springing through bare dirt and cracks in concrete: the brazen, jagged-toothed dandelion.
These early-season, deep-rooted growers make me happy for myself and for the bees. The bright yellow flowers are one of the first available food sources for pollinators. So it’s ironic that these native, medicinal plants are considered a “weed” to many a green-grass-growing lawnkeeper (especially given that common turf grasses like bluegrass and fescue are actually insidiously invasive, non-blooming, and not nutritional).
Here are some of the facts about the humble, oft-disparaged dandelion:
Good for bees
Unsprayed dandelions are an abundant food for pollinators when they first emerge, hungry after a long, inactive winter. When those yellow flowery faces appear, the hives start to grow quickly thanks to this early source of nectar and pollen.
Good for people
All parts of the dandelion have nutritional and medicinal value, as long as it hasn’t been sprayed with insecticides or herbicides.
The root can be dug up any time of year -- though spring roots are best -- and dried for use in tisanes (herbal tea), tinctures, or pill form. Some even use it as a coffee substitute. It’s considered a detoxifying tonic for the liver and kidneys and is high in antioxidants.
The leaves can also be harvested throughout the year, though the early leaves, prior to blooming, are the tastiest, tenderest, and least bitter. The greens can be steeped to drink, added fresh to salads or pesto, or wilted in soups or stir-fry. With vitamins A, B, C, E and K; minerals such as calcium, iron, and manganese; and dietary fiber, these greens are said to aid in detoxification, support healthy digestion, improved skin, strengthen bones, reduce inflammation, and regulate blood pressure.
The flowers, before going to seed, can be picked for the joy of it (leave some for the bees!), and also for tisanes, cordials, pancakes, salads, and wine.
How to use Hindu Hillbilly herbal honey
Our dandelion-red clover-burdock herbal honey is a powerhouse for cleansing. Burdock root is considered detoxifying and good for the skin, and red clover has traditionally been used to balance hormones and boost heart health. Our dandelion roots and leaves were harvested in the spring and infused in the honey for many moons. (Roots take longer to extract, so herbal honeys with root infusions typically sit for 3 to 6 months.)
You can take it just like medicine -- a spoonful in the morning -- or add it to a tea or tisane, or just mix it in a cup of hot water. Get some here.
Excitement in the air
In Western Montana we’ve just begun to see those spiky green fingers poking up through the dirt again, and it’s putting a big smile on my face. The first dandelions are a sign that soon I’ll be spending time in the garden, digging my fingers into the dirt, and back among the bees, reconnecting with the sprouting, blooming world after a long winter. Before long I’ll be picking fresh herbs for next season’s honey.