Dandelions

CLOSER LOOK

One sticky hot early summer afternoon a few years ago, a friend and I filled three plastic grocery bags with fuzzy dandelion heads growing on the outskirts of a nearby cemetery. At the end of the day, our hands were stained yellow and our backs ached. Months later, we happily sipped the results of our labors: sickeningly sweet, homemade dandelion wine. With warm days come fields full of this humble, opportunistic weed, and a timely reminder that we need to make the most of what we've got.

"A weed is but an unloved flower."
-- Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Other Dandy Names

The flower's most common name comes from the French term dent de lion, meaning "tooth of the lion"--likely a reference to the jagged edges of the leaves. But the flower also has a nickname for nearly every stage of its life: swine's snout, sun in the grass, puffball, monk's head.
Three Good Reasons to Just Let Them Grow

You may not want your lawn studded with gold, but as an organic gardener, you'd be better off fighting a different battle. Not only are dandelions harmless: here's how they are good for your garden:

1. Dandelions nourish bees and are important for honey production.
2. They attract beneficial ladybugs,
3. Their deep roots help aerate compacted soil.

If You Can't Weed It, Eat It

It's definitely spring in Pennsylvania Dutch country when hand-painted signs for "Ham and Dandelion Supper" appear roadside. Since the leaves taste best when harvested young, early spring is the best time of year to enjoy these tender greens.
Dandelion Fans:

Don't miss Dandelion Fest '08, in early May at the Breitenbaeh Winery in Dover, Ohio. For more details or to shop for dandelion wine, visit breitenbach wine.com.

PHOTO (COLOR): Harvesting tip: Get the tastiest leaves by gathering from the center of plants growing in shady areas.

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By Abigail Poulette

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