Spring is in the air, the daffodils are popping up, and soon there will be new life everywhere. Before you go off to Family Farm and Home, or Tom’s Hardware to buy that next bag of Weed and Feed, consider allowing your lawn to go natural this year. While there are many beneficial plants that invade our rolling hills of grass, none is more vilified than the humble dandelion.
Did you know that dandelions were actually brought to the New World by our forefathers? Generations of our ancestors valued dandelions as remedies for illnesses including liver problems, gastrointestinal distress, fluid retention, and skin ailments. Besides being a medicinal plant, the dandelion is a delicious and highly nutritious vegetable. Every part of the plant can be eaten including the root and flowers. Young leaves can be eaten as salad greens, flowers are used to make dandelion wine or dandelion fritters, and roots are boiled and steeped in a tea or roasted and made into a coffee substitute. Apart from the myriad uses to us, dandelions are an incredibly important food source for bees, rabbits, birds, and deer, while plain grass lacks any significant nutritional value.
Herbicide use in the United States has skyrocketed over the past few decades. While many manufacturers will tell you these herbicides are safe for humans, many other studies will tell you that they cause a host of problems for humans and animals. Cancer, respiratory damage and birth defects have all been attributed to herbicides. Herbicides can also kill off native plants due to run off and pollution of our wild areas.
Ultimately, the question I pose to you is why? Why do we poison our lawns year in and year out? Why do we spend countless hours fertilizing, irrigating, and mowing? Why are we so committed to destroying so many beneficial plants just to propagate a single species? A well-kept lawn is very useful for a variety of activities, such as playing catch with your children, letting your dog run, and a host of fun things. Do we really need to eliminate other plants though? What would happen if we, as a community, decided that those pretty little yellow flowers are actually valuable? What would happen if we stopped poisoning our lawns and started eating them?
The opinions expressed in this piece are that of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views of The Portland Beacon or its ownership.