A friend said to Hodja Nasruddin, “Look at all these dandelions! I’ve tried pulling them, poisoning them, starving them, digging them out by the root. Nothing works. I am at my wit’s end!”
“That’s a shame,” said the Hodja. “They are not a problem for me.”
“Really? Please tell me your secret, my friend!”
“It is very simple,” said Nasruddin. “I have learned to love them.”
Dandelions are native to Eurasia, but have traveled all over this world. In France they were called “Dent de Lion,” or “Lion’s Tooth,” because of their toothed leaves. In England they were, “Piss-a-Beds,” for their diuretic properties. In Germany, Russia, and Italy they are “blowing flowers.” In Catalan, Poland, Denmark, and Lithuania they are “milk flowers,” “milkpots,” and “sow’s milk,” after the flower stem’s milky sap. In Finland, Estonia, and Croatia, they are “butter flowers.” In China, they are “flower that grows in public spaces by the riverside,” while in Portugal, they are called, “your dad is bald,” after a game the children play with them.
A weed is only a weed if it is unwanted. These immigrants have been used by humans for food, winemaking, herbs, and medicine for all of our recorded history. Their roots are roasted for a chicory-like hot drink. They are brimming with vitamins, and they enrich the soil.
They were only introduced to North America by the first European settlers. Foreign? Yes. But think of all the good things they have brought with them. Think of summertime without their cheerful faces. Most of all, think of all the wishes that have come true since they have found a home here.
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All words and images copyright 2012 Naomi Baltuck.