The recent rainfall has helped the lawns in southeast Manitoba. Yards are now looking lush and filled with colour, green grass, and yellow dandelions.
And although the dandelion is considered a weed, more residents are starting to look at the dandelion as less of a foe as they have in years past.
Some residents continue to deal with the weed with traditional pesticides, mowing them down or taking the time to pull them up by the root one by one. The City of Steinbach says they will be using pesticides again this year to control noxious weeds.
Many people are, however, getting creative in how they approach the dandelion in that they don’t consider it a weed to be removed.
Laura Friesen has taken a holistic approach to the dandelion, using it for a variety of purposes including baking.
"My kids love to pick them and then we bake cookies with them. We take the petals off of the stem and off the main flower and we make dandelion chocolate chip cookies."
Friesen says the fine yellow petals get mixed into the cookie dough along with chocolate chips. "It doesn't give flavour, but it gives a good healthful impact in your cookies."
According to Friesen the pesticide-free dandelions of their yard don’t give a strong flavour, but add some texture to the cookies. But that flavour isn’t the real purpose behind using them.
"Dandelions have amazing health benefits, so if my kids are willing to eat them and pick them so they're off my yard, why not?"
Making dandelion cookies is a novelty as well for the Friesen family. "When the dandelions come out, my kids get excited. They want to pick the dandelions and bake cookies."
The Friesen family aren’t the only ones who consume the persistent yellow-flowered plant.
Melissa Thiessen harvests the dandelions off her yard to blend them up to make dog food for her pets. She leaves the blossoms for the bees and butterflies and then gets busy dealing with the leaves.
Thiessen says it’s a basic process. "I soak them in a bit of water and vinegar to keep them clean. And then I freeze them and I'll randomly take some out, blend them up because they have to be blended to be digestible for dogs, and I add them to their food."
With the whole plant being edible, Thiessen wishes for more dandelions. Her yard has a lot of sand and she would like to harvest more and encourages them to multiply.
"I like to let them spread as much as possible ... the very opposite of everyone else!"
Thiessen has seen the healing properties of the dandelion in the improved health of her ailing dogs. She lost two dogs in the last year and has only one left in her house.
With her remaining dog dealing with stage 2 kidney failure, Thiessen says adding dandelions to their food was beneficial.
"When I started cooking for them and blending up things like dandelions, their health actually improved drastically, and I'm sure that's what got my one girl to almost 17 years (old)."
And dogs aren’t the only animals that benefit from eating dandelions. Zoe Nakata of The Wildlife Haven Rehabilitation Centre says their team spends time harvesting the plants on their 18-acre campus.
The whole dandelion is considered nutritious food for rabbits.
"Our bunnies love to eat them," Nakata says. "It's the best and most nutritious food. So as soon as they’re completely weaned from the specialized milk formula that we get for them, they eat the dandelions.’"
Nakata says Wildlife Haven avoids using pesticides or herbicides on their campus.
"We know that we've got wildlife that we share our yards and our parks with."
And they are happy to share that space, "We encourage peaceful coexistence with our wildlife neighbours," says Nakata.
"I think a lot of people have witnessed bunnies and squirrels all around them, and so we encourage them to let the dandelions be," according to Nakata the bunnies will be happy for the nutritious meals.
Dandelions are not just good for eating as the plant has some great medicinal properties.
Friesen also makes an anti-inflammatory pain-relieving salve with the flowers. Dandelions have anti-inflammatory properties in them and she has a recipe using the flowers. She infuses the flowers with olive, avocado, or coconut oil, combines it with beeswax and some essential oils.
"I always have a jar or multiple jars of this on hand. It’s so great after bumps or bruises."
Friesen says it also works well on muscle aches and pains: '"Dandelion oil works wonders!"
She doesn’t look at the dandelion as a weed.
"I've used dandelion root in making homemade teas, I've thrown it in when juicing. There's a lot of benefit in nature that we don't think about using."
Thiessen agrees, "They're just packed full of all kinds of vitamins and nutrients and antioxidants, it's a little miracle plant."