Dandelions are not the weeds some think them to be

Dandy dandelions

This week I have a plethora of interesting tidbits about one of the most familiar edible plants in the world.

You might have strong feelings about this plant, as it is often a rebel in home gardens. But children love them, so how bad could they be, right? You might have guessed that I am speaking of the ubiquitous dandelion.

This common plant may be a modern nuisance in urban lawns and gardens, but it has been talked about in societies around the world for thousands of years.The ancient Chinese were the first to record medicinal properties of the dandelion (they listed its immune-boosting properties and said it could “purify the blood”.)

Arabic cultures in the 11th Century used dandelions as a diuretic for liver and kidney troubles. American settlers intentionally planted them when they came from Europe, knowing their many benefits and uses. Even today, people still make dandelion wine, tea and salads.

The sunny disposition of these simple flowers has given them a mostly positive reputation, but not all the benefits we talk about have been proven. There are many myths surrounding dandelions.

A Wiccan belief is that if dandelions are placed in the northwest corner of a house, they will keep away frigid north winds. Many other beliefs involve hope and wishes as well:

• Sneak a few dandelions in a wedding bouquet as a symbol of good luck for the new couple

• Dandelions in a dream are symbols of a happy union

• Drinking dandelion root tea can can increase your psychic abilities

When I was a kid, everyone knew these were the flowers moms liked best in a bouquet. We also knew many stories surrounding these charming blossoms.

• When you blew the seeds of a dandelion while wishing, your wish would come true if you could blow them all off at once. If there were seeds left on the head, they were said to represent the number of children you would have. (Over the years I have seen plenty of hanging seeds. Perhaps they represent all the Girl Guides I have helped to lead.)

• If you held a dandelion flower under your chin and a yellow glow showed, it meant you would be rich when you grew up. (Yup, no yellow glow here, no matter how hard I leaned toward the sun. My abundance has come in other ways.)

• The sticky white sap in a dandelion was said to cure warts and corns. (I never got any of either. Was that because I picked so many bouquets?)

Have you ever tasted a dandelion? Thankfully for my generation, all parts of it are edible and even reasonably tasty. I remember nibbling on them as a kid, but I never knew until many years later how lovely a dandelion salad could be.

You may not be willing to put faith in any of the fancies mentioned thus far, but here are some scientific facts for you about this seemingly ordinary plant.

• It is an excellent food source for pollinating insects, being early to blossom and often growing where there are no other flowers available (like lawns).

• Dandelions are an accurate barometer because of their sensitivity to moisture once they go to seed. When rainy weather is on the horizon, the seed pods will close like umbrellas, and stay that way until things dry up.

• The dandelion flower does contain beneficial nutrients—vitamins A, B, C and D, as well as potassium.

Science aside, though, I am a firm believer that keeping a positive frame of mind is important when dealing with dandelions.

In the cooler weather of spring and fall, these resilient plants will prevail, so we waste our time and energy if we try to beat them in battle. Mother Nature is a formidable foe.

So, make a wish when the seeds blow in your yard. Let your kids or grandkids pick bouquets and test their wealth status but leave some growing for the bees to enjoy.

And if you’re making salad or tea or wine, be sure to choose dandelions that are wild and unaffected by foreign agents like pesticides…or dogs.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

Canadian summer, here we come!

Getting ready for summer

In Canada, we pride ourselves on our climatic toughness.

We like to trade stories of the worst winters and compare the endurance we have against those from other cities.

Did you know the corner of Portage and Main in Winnipeg is the windiest street corner in the world? I do - because I am an extra-tough Prairie kid.

We Canadians tend to stretch the definition of summer a little, just to make ourselves feel warmer for a bit longer, I think.

The general prevalence of less clement weather (dare I say “winter”?) makes us fiercely proud of what summer we do manage to eke out of the calendar.

Canadian tradition says that summer starts when the May long weekend arrives. Some years Mother Nature doesn’t cooperate very well on the weather front, and this year might be one of those. With the last few years of having our fun curtailed, we are aching to get out there and make the most of the time no matter what.

With many of my ESL students, I have used the theme of memories for special days. With this long weekend here, I have been reminiscing with them about the launch of summer. It has been heartening to learn that no matter where you come from or go to, it’s the little things that you cherish.

As a kid, I used to dread the Victoria Day weekend, as that was when the garden work went into full force. We dug and planted and moved rocks and generally didn’t do anything that seemed like what one should be doing on the first lazy weekend of summer.

I was always secretly hoping to get an essay assignment at school on what I did that weekend, so I could regale the class with a tale of woe and hard labour. Funnily enough, as an adult I now look forward to the first sure weekend of garden work.

If you aren’t a garden buff like me, then I imagine the smell of burgers or ribs on the barbecue might be the memory of Victoria Days past. Or perhaps it is the sound of the boat on the water, or the splashing of kids at the beach. Maybe it is the feel of the wind in your hair as you ride with the top down in your convertible for the first time.

The other night, when I heard starlings warbling crazily in the trees, it reminded me of another classic harbinger of summer – the ice cream truck. I remembered that the first trip it made was usually this weekend.

The taste of ice cream eaten outside off a stick is certainly a taste of summer. That and drinking from the garden hose were things that went with skinned knees, grass stains and sunburn.

I wonder what kids today will have as memories when they grow older and want to look back.

This weekend, we will be visiting my stepdaughter and her family, watching our brand-new grandson live his first long weekend, while our granddaughter walks through her first Victoria Day. I am sure we will spend some time comparing stories of years gone by.

After all, isn’t that what being a family is all about?

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

You not only give when you volunteer, you also receive

Sharing is caring

This week I’d like to focus more on the Happy part of the name of my column, rather than the Gourmand.

People who know me will shake their heads and say how can you separate the two? Well, I suppose in some ways I can’t. But I’d like to offer a different lens for you to look through.

I share most often through food, but I like to share in other ways too. I share my time when I can, and although my schedule is topsy turvy lately, I have still tried to keep up on my cherished volunteer moments.

My longest standing commitment is with Girl Guides.

For the past 17 years, my alter ego has been Poppy, a Girl Guide leader. I started out with another new adult volunteer and worked with her as her daughter grew through the stages of the organization, from Brownies to Guides to Pathfinders and finally to Rangers.

Now we have both gone back to the beginning with a Sparks unit (girls aged five and six). Every Wednesday evening, and a few weekends camping, I get to soak up the energy and enthusiasm of 25 girls. Amidst all the years of crafts and games and field trips and cookies, I have been able to share my passions with dozens of girls. I hope I have given them a few pearls of wisdom. I know they have given me buckets of beautiful memories.

Over the last two years I had more time on my hands and so I added other volunteer work. My new work as a teacher of English as a second language gave me one new opportunity to share, and my passion for dogs showed me the other one.

Twice a month, I host an online class for conversational English on a platform started for us “mature” folks (meaning 55 and older) called Get Set Up. I have met people from around the world and had many engaging chats. I have learned as much as they have.

Dog owners are dedicated to their furry friends, but sometimes that gets to be hard. When I learned of an organization called Elder Dog that was assisting older people who needed help with their dogs, I was happy to sign up as a dog walker.

I got to know a handsome Bichon named Ty and have had lovely chats with his owner.

All my volunteer efforts bring me a special joy. I get so much from all of them. The time I spend is repaid in smiles, love, laughter and even possibly a legacy. Sharing a jar of jam isn’t nearly as powerful as that.

I know that most folks are even busier now that the world is getting back to its normal speed. I also know that a sense of community is only built when we give first.

Maybe you’ll think I’m being overly altruistic this week, but I’m going to put this out there anyway—give some time and you will not regret it. It is one of the best investments you can make.

All the organizations I volunteer with are looking for more people, if any of those causes strike your fancy. And there are plenty of others that would be happy for your help if you can make time.

If you don’t have time to volunteer, perhaps you’d like to share with friends or a neighbour? A jar of pickles or some cookies can go a long way.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

May is our warm up for enjoying summer

The darling buds of May

Mother Nature carries on her work as we flip the calendar pages.

We didn’t have many April showers, but the flowers of May are coming, nonetheless. Soon summer will be here. Can you feel the excitement?

People are in their gardens. The farmers’ markets have opened. Patio umbrellas are going up all over. We are hunting for flip flops and tank tops in the back of the closet in anticipation a few more degrees. And I bet you are either booking a B & B somewhere or getting your camper ready for the season.

Do you have spring fever? After having spent the last two years with bated breath about how to celebrate summer, many folks seem especially keen to make the most of the season. May is our warm-up, and it has been that way for centuries.

Have you ever heard of a may pole? Roman soldiers started the tradition of dancing around trees in early May to thank the goddess Flora for the coming of spring. In medieval Europe, young men and/or maidens were a part of festivities that heralded the joy of longer days and new beginnings.

Dancing around a pole or using it to signify the start of a parade sounds like a fine way to shake off the dust and darkness of winter. But in case you don’t have a pole handy with ribbons and a bunch of maidens ready to dance, here are a few other suggestions:

• Visit one of the farmers’ markets that are now open. If you want to check one out that is further from home, check out the list of markets in the Okanagan. Not all are open yet, but you can start making plans.

• Try some of the new spring releases at the local wineries, breweries or cideries. I offer a link for each to get you started, but please know there are plenty of resources to discover new places. Be an intrepid explorer when you support local businesses.

• Go for a hike and enjoy the many spectacular views of our region, not to mention some fresh air. Now that the weather is warmer, it’s easy to pack for a day trip. Make sure to bring water and an extra layer of clothing to account for spring weather.

• Try a bike ride, or even a walk. All the cities in the Okanagan have scenic paths to enjoy – usually with a cafe or ice cream shop nearby (wink wink). If you’re feeling energetic with your bike dusted off from winter storage, the Kettle Valley Rail Trail outside Penticton is lovely. The Myra Canyon trail in Kelowna that offers views from the old railway trestles will open later in May.

If you haven’t shaken off all the cobwebs of winter yet, or don’t think it’s warm enough for an outdoor excursion, then how about a taste of spring to celebrate the advance of the season?

Make my Lemon Pudding Cake and everyone at your table will thank you. It’s a wonderfully refreshing dessert that I think tastes just like spring, all fluffy and fresh and bright.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

More Happy Gourmand articles

About the Author

Kristin Peturson-Laprise is a customer experience specialist by trade, which means she is someone passionate about people having a good time. 

Her company, Wow Service Mentor, helps businesses enhance their customer experience through hands-on training, service programs, and special event coordination.

Kristin enjoys her own experiences too, and that is what she writes about in this column. She and her husband Martin Laprise (also known as Chef Martin, of The Chef Instead) love to share their passion for food and entertaining.  

Kristin says:

"Wikipedia lists a gourmand as a person who takes great pleasure in food. I have taken the concept of gourmandise, or enjoying something to the fullest, in all parts of my life. I love to grow and cook food, and I loved wine enough to become a Sommelier. I call a meal a success when I can convey that 'sense of place' from where the food has come . . . the French call that terroir, but I just call it the full experience. It might mean tasting the flavours of my own garden, or transporting everyone at the table to a faraway place, reminiscent of travels or dreams we have had."


E-mail Kristin at:  [email protected]

Check out her website here:  www.wowservicementor.com


The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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