It’s a weed. It’s likely that you see it now on the side of the road, in parks, or in your yard. The dandelion’s flower is sweet and cheery, and when mature, develops into the white cottony blowball that carries the achene, and our wishes, into the breeze. Their yellow blossoms open to the sun during daytime, and close in the night. Dandelions are an intrinsic part of springtime’s landscape. Although the dandelion plant is widely considered a weed, it is actually very useful. Almost all of the plant is edible, and has been used for years to treat gout, liver and bile ailments. It is a strong diuretic, and because if this has many common names such as “piss-a-bed.” Dandelions are rich in vitamins A, C, and K, and are good sources of calcium, potassium, iron and manganese. It’s proper name is Taraxacum and belongs to the family Asteracea. It grows naturally all throughout South and North America as well as Eurasia. It can be boiled, sautéed, blanched, or eaten raw in salads.
Did you know that some species of dandelion are natural producers of rubber? When their flesh is torn or cut, they will seep out small amounts of latex in the milk. German bioengineers have found a way to capitalize on this ability, and so far have been able to cultivate high-yeilding plants in controlled settings. They hope to transition their success in the laboratory to large-scale industrial agriculture. To do so would mean greater independence for Germany, as they plan to use the latex to make tires.
Next time you see that little springtime weed, stop and let yourself be awed. You see that weed? The one right there? You may hate it, may be willing to do anything to get it out of your yard once and for all. That one. The Germans want it.