Two city committees fired up the pesticide wars again last week by voting to let residents poison dandelions. On May 18 the issue goes to council. Don't let the lawn-care lobby's lies about nature's gift to human health - and one of the most complete plant foods on earth – carry the day.
Latin name : Taraxacum officinale means "commercial remedy for disorders." The Chinese wrote about the dandelion in the 7th century, the Arabs in the 10th, and in Europe it was first mentioned in 1485.
Common name: Dandelion, derived from the French 'dents de lion," or teeth of the lion, for its jagged leaves.
Origins: Asia, where it's been used medicinally for centuries. Brought to North America by European settlers in the 1700s as a food plant because of its hardiness. Not a weed at all, but a wild vegetable.
Food uses: Leaves for salads; blossoms for syrup, jelly and wine; roots for coffee. Contains more beta carotene than carrots, more potassium than bananas, more lecithin than soybeans, more iron than spinach, and loads of vitamins A, C and E as well as some 64 trace nutrients critical to health promotion.
Medicinal uses: As a liver stimulant (choline, one of the dandelion's main ingredients, is essential to liver function); blood purifier; anemia arrester; digestive aid (the plant's bitter green leaves release hydrochloric acid, which strengthens the stomach and eliminates gall and kidney stones); formula for PMS; and topical treatment (using the white sap from the stem) for warts, corns, calluses and acne. A prime ingredient in more than 400 commercial herbal remedies.
Other uses: Latex for rubber
Plant lore: Thought to confer powers of divination. In mythology, Leprechauns often played tricks on mortals using fields of dandelions to confuse them. It's believed that you will live as many years as there are seeds left after blowing on the head of a dandelion. The number of seeds left on a dandelion head after blowing three times tells you what time it is, or, in the case of a young woman, how many years before she will become pregnant.
Dandelion lies: Spread mostly by grass-obsessed suburbanites who think these beautiful yellow babies are killing their lawns.
Better beleaf it: Dandelions are beneficial to garden ecosystems. They attract ladybugs that eat garden pests. Their long roots aerate the earth and pull minerals to the surface to replenish topsoil. The plant's leaves also emit a gas that makes fruit ripen early and evenly, making them useful in orchards. They're also an important source of food for bees and the caterpillars of many moth and butterfly species.
The real grass killers: Surprise, surprise - it's those fertilizers you're using to keep your lawn green. Those containing potassium actually increase weed densities up to 20-fold.
Call your local councillor (416-338-0338) to urge them not to back down on the pesticide bylaw.