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Don’t Let Monsanto Kill the Humble but Wholesome Dandelion

(Photo: Doug Wheller / Flickr)

I was watching TV the other day. Commercial break. Cut to a lush green lawn. A single yellow dandelion springs up through the emerald expanse. The heroic protagonist appears left. He spies the flower, runs, dives, somersaults onto the lawn and pops up sturdily on one knee. Brandishing a bottle of weed killer, he fires. The patented nozzle rains hell on the defenseless sunbather. The flower withers. And dies. The lawn-owner is triumphant. Right?

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Though considered a weed by Round Up and many home/lawn owners in the United States, the dandelion is actually an incredibly nutritious food. It’s a great source of calcium, potassium, iron and manganese. It’s replete with vitamins A, C, E, K, Niacin and Riboflavin. Chock full of beta-carotene. The lecithin in its golden top detoxifies the liver. The roots can be roasted to make a coffee substitute, or used in soups. The leaves (tastiest after they first emerge for the season or after the first frost) can be eaten, as can its sweet yellow blossoms. People use them in salads raw, boil them, fry them with bacon, marinate them in vinegar, and sauté them with fresh garlic. Did you ever notice that if you break the stem of a dandelion that a milky white liquid comes out? Well, you can use that liquid to ease the pain of bee stings and sores. Remember the advice of the great ancient Greek physician, Hippocrates, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food”. These vitamins and minerals boost the immune system, fight anemia, and help prevent the development of type II diabetes. Remember the brain is a part of our body as well. Healthy bodies mean healthy brains. Proper nutrition prevents depression and anxiety and improves concentration. Scientists even believe that lecithin may help combat Alzheimer’s.

Other cultures consume dandelions regularly. My friend Ricardo has spent many summers living in Greece. I asked him how similar the food in Greek town was to food “normal” people eat in Greece. “Very similar” he told me “with one crucial difference. The Greek grandmothers gather fresh greens (dandelions especially) every day. Then they add these greens to tomato and cucumber salads, to meals of roasted lamb, and spinach pie.” Even in Pensacola, Florida, my friend Kate’s yaya would often demand that the car be pulled over so she could pick fresh dandelion greens off the side of the road.

The dandelion doesn’t simply nourish humans; it nourishes other plants as well. Year after year this perennial often reappears in spite of all the mowings, weedings, and poisonings it endures. This is because the dandelion has a “taproot”, a long twisted root that can grow three feet deep within the earth. The taproot brings minerals and nutrients not available at the soil’s surface to neighboring plants with shorter roots. The taproot connects us to less contaminated parts of Mother Earth. It connects us to our foundations.

In the Round Up commercial, the protagonist is only truly successful in poisoning his home, his body and his mind while he prostrates himself before his corporate overlords.

Round Up is made by Monsanto. There isn’t space enough in this whole paper to talk about Monsanto. Just Google “trouble with Monsanto” and read for yourself. Monsanto has a history of manufacturing and marketing DDT (see Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring), Agent Orange (see a Vietnam Vet) and rBGH or Recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (see an overly-developed pre-teen in your neighborhood). Over the years it has owned food manufacturers and pharmaceutical companies.

Monsanto and its subsidiaries, competitors, and peers sell us pesticides that kill the free food we could grow on our lawns. Then they sell us processed foods that damage our bodies. They sell us pharmaceuticals to “help” us with the ailments that come from eating those processed foods, ailments such as obesity, diabetes, kidney failure, and cancer. We are even more susceptible to lesser ailments (common colds, influenzas, and infections) because our immune systems lack the proper nutrients to combat them. They profit at every step. And at every step we suffer. We get sick. We suffer. And we die.

I had suffered another sleepless night maniacally contemplating the end of democracy in Detroit, the subjugation of the people beneath corporate power, the psychological side effects of the advertising industry and on and on and on. When a Google search can’t sufficiently answer my worried soul-searching, I usually call my Dad. “Fred,” he said. “It’s your money. It’s my money. Everyone’s money is where they get their power. The answer is easy. Spend less money. Every dollar you don’t spend makes them weaker. Every solution you make for yourself makes you stronger.” Most of us depend on the civic/economic infrastructure in so many ways, and will continue to do so for a long time to come. But we can wean our selves off of it. Dandelion salad by dandelion salad. Backyard farm by backyard farm. Tweet by Tweet.

For many of us, spring is a symbol manifest of youth and renewal. But before modern times, spring also meant the renewal of hostilities. When rivers broke free of their icy manacles, the fields warmed in the sun and, so again, would tempers. Warring parties could now find their way back to their enemies. Nature’s bounty could nurture tattered revolutionaries as they resisted their oppression. Think of those revolutionaries when the fields erupt into gold. The word dandelion comes from dent-de-lion, which means “the lion’s tooth” in Old French. The plant can make lions of us. We are in a war — a war against convenience and corporate dominance. How can we think of the solutions to problems in Detroit if we can’t think straight because of the spiked blood sugar brain fog? How can we stand for the people, when we’re too busy standing on our feet at dead end jobs that barely feed our children? Sitting in cars, driving back and forth to charter schools because they took the schools and the buses and the resources out of our neighborhoods?

This is real flower power. The Lion’s tooth is a stone in David’s slingshot. Take aim at Goliath. Use it to fight the corporate Philistines. Don’t uproot your ammo. Eat it. Grow healthy and strong. Think clearly. Spend your time enjoying your family and your creativity rather than being consumed by your discomfort and sickness. And for every dandelion you don’t eat, that turns white with old age in summer, blow those seeds to remind the world we are standing up. Blow that strength to our brothers and sisters in Syria. In Cyprus. To the people near Fukushima, Japan, where the people need detoxifying, need healing. Blow the seeds of revolution onto the lawn of the Manoogian mansion, the capitol in Lansing, The Jones Day law firm campus, and the national mall. Blow the seeds toward Monsanto, Dow Chemical, Kraft Foods and Goldman Sachs. Blow! Blow! Blow! Grow strong and live fully. And when the fields gild themselves, once more, next spring or the next, listen. You might hear the people roaring. Roaring like lions.

If you’ve never gathered or eaten wild dandelions before, do some research on-line or at your local library to learn how to do so safely.

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