Half a Hundred Herbs – Week 14 Dandelion

dandelionWell, here we are at last, with the dandelion, dent de lion, piss-a-bed. Used for salads, if you like the bitter leaves like chicory and endive, and the mixes with bacon bits and a dash of vinegar – and coffee, if you’re really stuck. The roots are roasted and ground, and it’s supposed to be good if you don’t want caffeine. I have never tried it, not even in my most adventurous days.

I do love dandelions, with their scruffy early-morning brassy cheeky faces. They come out so early in the year, when you’re desperate for colour and vigour in the garden. And I love the airy clocks, and I’m dying to teach my grand-daughters how to blow on them to tell the time. The six year-old won’t pick them, however. Someone has already told her that she will wet the bed if the milky fluid that drips from the broken stem touches her hand. I am always surprised that this superstition persists, surely children are too knowing for this sort of thing these days? But it pleases me, because it’s a survival of genuine herbal knowledge. Dandelions really were used to improve the function of the kidneys, especially if the patient was retaining fluid. They really do make you pee more —

I am thinking more about this herbal knowledge, how it persists, how it is transmitted, why it is sometimes despised, why it is often revered as if it were magic. It links up with something I read in David Abrams’ The Spell of the Sensuous, with the thinking behind the Occupy movement, with the science versus religion mindset, the feminist movement, the interest in depth psychology. And I’m coming to the conclusion that it’s less about truth, logic, clarity, certainty, and more about the question – whose is the knowledge? A strange and disturbing question to ponder.

But meanwhile the sun is out and I am in the garden more. Most of the seeds I sowed last week are up, and I’ve been planting up a stock bed. This year is all about growing and propagating, and I’m thinking of planting the smallest knot garden on the planet.new stock bedThere are lavenders, winter savory, carnations, pinks, thymes and costmary in here, and a bunch of leftover wallflowers blooming their crimson hearts out.

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