Dandelion invasion continues to spread

...eating or drinking them might be the answer to the dandelion problem.

…eating or drinking them might be the answer.

Complaining about the ever-increasing infestation of dandelions has become part of the spring ritual in many cities. They may look pretty for awhile but their vigour sees them taking over any open area. Grass has little chance competing against a plant that thrives in drought and poor soil, and that seems able to grow even in gravel and concrete. Dandelions are as tenacious and adaptable as coyotes and rats. These plants can grow two or three feet high to outcompete tall plants. Yet home owners swear they have seen dandelions duck lawn mower blades by growing extremely short stems.  Clearly dandelions have the ability to outsmart mere humans. But there is more to this clever and diabolical plant.

The name dandelion is a corruption of the French words “dent de lion” which means lion’s tooth which is one of the colloquial terms used to describe the plant. Its also called blow ball, puffball, monks head, swine snout and the more worrisome cankerwort and pee-a-bed. Such descriptive names come from the same past tradition that gave us ominous words like mad cow disease and pizzle rot. The official name of the dandelion is Taraxacum Officinale and it is a Eurasian plant that has spread across the world.   Amazingly this plant is edible (it tastes like mustard greens), and can be used in salads. I expect if you like eating kale, then dandelion is just the next step. Your humble writer has tried to eat dandelions, but I suggest dandelion wine has a lot more promise. Apparently in Belgium they produce a seasonal ale whose local name translates into “wet the bed”. Perhaps not the most sales attractive name if that is one of the side effects.

A number of medicinal properties are also attributed to dandelions, but most are anecdotal as solid scientific evidence tends to be lacking. Claims are made that it can help digestive problems, bile and liver concerns and is a mild laxative. The milky latex produced by dandelions seems to cure warts and act as a mosquito repellant, maybe those pests are telling us something. There also seems to be a belief that dandelions can impact cancer, which has led the University of Windsor to research that possibility. That facility obtained $217,000 in grants to study the effect of dandelion tea on the spread of cancer. Considering the bitter taste of the plant perhaps researchers should start off the participants with a gallon of dandelion wine before giving them the tea. That’s bound to cure something, or cause that embarrassing “wet the bed” side effect.

Another mind-boggling attribute the dandelion has is its political power and its ability to attract the attention of devious green zealots and lobby groups. Few plants have attracted so much devotion to its mental and physical well-being. Those crafty dandelion lovers have expended much energy and money to bamboozle gullible municipal and provincial politicians into enacting herbicide bans against the precious yellow weeds. Fearmongering is their main weapon with such outlandish claims that children will die if bans are not implemented. There is of course no scientific evidence for any such ban, but duplicitous politicians are always keen to enact any regulation that might garner more votes in the next election. It also gets pesky nuisance green groups off their back. Such bans have a perverse consequence for green lobby groups as a ban loses a cause for them to use in donation campaigns. What is laughable is that cosmetic herbicide bans do not apply to golf courses or agriculture. It seems its safe to use on vegetables for food production but not on our lawns. Herbicides are also exempted for use on sports fields as weed infestation is a safety hazard to athletes. Its also interesting to note that green groups never fearmonger about other pesticide chemicals like bug repellants we use on our faces, I expect few citizens would support such a ban. In the end it’s all about politics and extracting donations. But I digress as usual.

One town that has cashed in on dandelions is Kemptville, Ontario – where they celebrate an annual Dandelion Festival in May. I suspect for vested reasons they have a herbicide ban in place to protect the image of their festival. The centrepiece of the festival is the featured dandelion dinner where local chefs compete to create the most exciting dandelion recipe. Something tells me that to be edible such a dinner will have to be washed down with copious amounts of dandelion wine.