If you can’t beat ’em, eat ’em!
By: By Lucy Haines
| Posted: Saturday, Jun 07, 2014 06:00 am
DID YOU KNOW?
• The dandelion is rich in nutrients like protein, calcium, iron and Vitamins A and C.
• The bright yellow flowers can be used in tea, wine, jelly, pancakes and fritters.
• Before dandelion greens grow too long and become bitter and tough, harvest tender greens for salads, or cook like spinach.
Its sweet, yellow bloom may look innocent, but for many homeowners, the lowly, ubiquitous dandelion is a weed, a nuisance, a pest – and a mighty foe in the quest for a pristine lawn.
“Get rid of my dandelions – that’s our biggest request,” said Edward Ramsden, owner of Enviro Masters Lawn Care in St. Albert, offering traditional and chemical-free weed control, fertilizing and lawn maintenance services across the city. “They could just be seen as flowers, but people want the green, lush grass – no yellow.”
Enviro Masters offers an economical spot-spray chemical treatment of problem dandelion areas, or a mineral-based chemical application. But the environmentally friendly company promotes a greener option for customers – using a non-chemical, pre-emergent corn gluten pellet, applied heavily before the dandelion germinates.
“We try to wean people off chemical weed control, focusing instead on creating and maintaining a healthy lawn with over-seeding, fertilizing and mowing to a higher height of three inches – this all helps crowd out the weeds,” Ramsden said.
In fact, the dandelion – Taraxacum officinale – isn’t a weed at all, though it’s commonly considered to be one. It’s actually a flowering herbaceous plant, found in temperate regions all over the world, and sometimes used as a medicinal herb or in food preparation. The flowers are used to make dandelion wine or tea – even dandelion fritters – and the greens in salads or sautéed like spinach or kale. Boiled dandelion greens drizzled with oil and lemon? Some folks love it, or stirred in to an Italian Wedding-style soup – no kidding.
Even the roots are used as a coffee substitute, when baked and ground into powder. Dandelion root is also used as an herbal medicine to improve digestion, and as a mild laxative. The milky latex in the stem has even been used as a mosquito repellent, and folk remedy to treat warts.
If you’re not convinced to pluck dandelion stems and leaves as edibles in your kitchen, or to feed to the pet guinea pig and rabbit, or even to let your little ones make a pretty spring bouquet, then let’s get back to them as an annoying flower, and how to best get rid.
The City of St. Albert doesn’t include dandelions on the list of invasive plants and noxious weeds, which requires different action under the Provincial Weed Control Act and the Agricultural Pest Act. But, the city has developed an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Plan, which manages weed control and dandelions as part of its efforts. While the focus is on turf health, freeing public spaces of noxious plants like Canada thistle, the team of pesticide applicators also responds to nuisance complaints about dandelions.
Kevin Veenstra, tree and pest team lead with the city’s public works department, said park areas and sports fields – all city owned, public land – are monitored for dandelions and treated to control turf health.
“In your own garden or lawn, you can hand-pull or dig weeds out, which is often the most effective, because you get both the weed and root system. You can also mow over weeds before they go to seed, which helps reduce spread. Sometimes using a professional company for a season, to treat weeds and fertilize, helps restore a lawn. That can provide a healthy start to then control dandelions however you want,” Veenstra said.