Sunday, April 24, 2011

Knee Pads

My mom celebrated her 84th birthday last week. We all celebrated by taking her out for sushi and watching how I can't handle my sake. It was a blast. I think.

But my mom is a child of the Depression. A war wife (Korea) and 50s housewife extraordinaire. Her parents were homesteaders and had chickens, chinchillas and veggies on one Minnesota acre. Which is why I'm guessing, my mom wants NO part of this grow yer own self sufficiency experiment I'm immersed in. She'll listen, sure. She'll even water the tomato plants I put in for her last week. Maybe. But even if they fruit I'm pretty sure she'll drive to Publix and buy some.

But she makes no apologies about it. She says 'I've come a long way and if I've got it, I'm gonna spend it. If we still have gas, I'm gonna drive it. If we still have electricity and plumbing, I'm gonna use it.' She finds my thrift to be ridiculous and I'm guessing, more than a little irritating. I was, as an aside, the kind of kid who HAD to have Calvin Klein jeans the hot minute they were released. The kind of teen who had a sportscar at 15 and 3/4 years. The kind of 20something who spent $50 on tequila bottles and a 30 something who traveled like I had a magic carpet in the back yard. So I know it's freaky that in my 40s I'm eating dandelion greens out of the yard and learning to make wine out of its flowers but I feel like I have some catching up to do.

My mom said she's going to buy me knee pads so I can do more wild foraging or just graze in the back yard. I mean, why waste a plate?

But hear me out. The dandelion is the most unappreciated plant out there. You know why? Because we can't control it. Let it be, people. It's prehistoric. You can't win. Embrace the Dandy. It takes over the expansion joints on my terrace every year and I didn't want to use an herbicide, I figure, it must be there for a reason, right? So I let it be. And well since everything around here has to have a purpose, I eat it. Call it "rocket" or bitter greens or baby lettuce if you must. It is good for you, everywhere, and free!

My favorite part about it is that it's easy to identify. I am (to paraphrase Thomas Jefferson), an old soul but a new gardener---and I am also only about 5 years into herbalism. And most recently into wild foraging over supplements and purchased preparations. I've recently ordered the Peterson's Guide to wild edibles which is way overdue. (See, dandelion LOOKS a lot like Chickory...) I'm lucky to have a wild and wooly 7 acres at the foot of the Appalachian mountains to harvest and learn. But I'll bet you've got dandelions in your driveway. So put down the RoundUp and get a fork!

•Dandelion is a powerful diuretic and can help lower blood pressure
•Dandelion is the best natural source of potassium
•it can ease the discomfort of muscular rheumatism
•like all the "bitters" it is a great thing for a congested liver. otherwise known as the fatty liver. The boozy liver. The overworked are you really eating that greasy buttered creamy thing again liver.
•Chinese medicine uses it with Chamomile to calm "liver wind" to bring more blood to the liver and to cure hair loss from stress
•ease menstrual cramps and calm hot flashes

That's enough for me. I've had squirrel dung in my Chinese herbal teas before, so this little plant is a no brainer. The leaves, root and flowers are all edible. Flowers are sweet. Young leaves are better in salad, larger better for soups and saute. Garnish with flowers.