Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Superfood #3

Is there anything more pedestrian in suburban America than the carefully manicured front lawn? As a place to play catch and kick a soccer ball, I'll let you have your backyard turf. But that front lawn of tidy green grass running from door to sidewalk? That monochromatic parcel of mindless geometry? It needs to go.

My neighbors are forever grappling with the weeds that so easily out-wit them. They pull and mow and dump gallons of fertilizers and herbicides, never mind the ever-dwindling salmon that drink in the polluted run-off. Meanwhile we've let our own lawn go to hell, earning the hairy eyeball as property values around us take the hit. One day I'll rip out the lawn altogether and replace its humdrum bed of grass with a more visually stimulating rock garden of some sort, with native plants that don't require constant coddling. In the interim I'll make use of the lawn's best feature.

The dandelions.

For millennia the dandelion was revered for its medicinal qualities. Consumptives ate its roots in winter and its tender leaves in spring and were restored to health. Now we have vitamin supplements and the once mighty dandelion has been consigned to a long list of pests to be stamped out.

It's too bad, because people are missing the boat. The vitamin game is no way to stay healthy. Study after study shows that vitamins absorbed through food are far more salubrious than any supplement. I've already posted about two "superfoods"—the stinging nettle and watercress. Now add the lowly dandelion to the list. Turns out it's bursting with vitamins and trace minerals, in part because of those exasperating taproots that can reach two feet or more down into the soil. According to Dr. Peter Gail, president of Defenders of Dandelions, these common weeds "contain more beta-carotene than carrots, more potassium than bananas, more lecithin than soybeans, more iron than spinach, and loads of Vitamins A, C, E, thiamin and riboflavin, calcium, phosphorus and magnesium."

I guess one of these afternoons when the sun is out I'll resuscitate our ancient lawn mower and make my neighbors happy. But first I've got some dandelions to harvest.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

good opinion on dandelions!

i agree with people over obsessing about having a perfect lawn with fertilizers, herbicides,pesticides.
i go for a walk in my small town and see a sign in someones' yard that says 'truegreen chemlawn' or some crap like that. and i'm like' i wonder if they know they may be poisoning themselves in some way . i like my dandelions. i went out last fall and got a bunch of greens and though they were bitter cuz they got big, i sauted them with onions in olive oil and scarfed them down cuz i knew how healthy they were. this spring , i went out early and harvested young leaves, and some roots. i made dinner and even my very picky wife ate the small pile of braised greens on her plate and liked them. i've roasted the roots and intend on having some tea tonight!