We left really early with the light of dawn just appearing on the horizon. The air was cold and the sky indicated we were in for unpredictable weather. It was a slow journey to the north, the seed truck taking its time to meander up and over the New Mexico state line into Colorado and on to Durango. We were invited to be part of the 11th Annual Dandelion Festival, which is held at the time of the dandelions to celebrate the power of this plant, organic parks, local food and spring.
|Rotary Park, site of the Dandelion Festival.|
The festival is coordinated by the Turtle Lake Refuge , the mission of which is to celebrate the connection between personal health and wild lands. Turtle Lake was founded in 1998 by Katrina Blair who teaches sustainable living practices, permaculture and wild edible and medicinal plant classes locally and internationally. She is the author of a book titled “Local Wild Life- Turtle Lake Refuge’s Recipes for Living Deep”, that focuses on the uses and recipes of the local wild abundance.
The Festival was held in the Rotary Park which is surrounded by grassy areas filled with huge bright yellow dandelions that attracted people to sit and make necklaces and headbands to wear in honor of this special plant.
The dandelion derives its name from the French term ‘dent de lion’ meaning ‘tooth of the lion’. And if you look carefully at the petals of this pant you can see the connection. Though the dandelion has been carried from place to place since before written history, it can at least be said that the plant is native to Europe and Asia. The earliest recordings can be found in Roman times and use has been noted by the Anglo Saxon tribes of Britain and the Normans of France. In the tenth and eleventh centuries there is mention of dandelions being used for medicinal purposes in the works of Arabian physicians. As people migrated they took these plants and seed with them to grow them in their new homeland. Dandelions were an important element of their culture and well-being as they were essential medicine, food and wine. Now the dandelion is known as a weed as it is hard to contain, they have a long tap root and are resilient. They produce hundreds of seeds that are distributed by the wind and can be carried hundreds of miles.
The festival highlights the benefits of the dandelion and seeks to reestablish its medicinal place in our contemporary culture and to dispel the “weed” myth. All parts of the plant can be eaten and are often found in salads, roasted, fried, or made into wine, tea, or a coffee-like drink. Dandelions have a taste similar to chicory or endive with a bitter tinge. Studies have shown that the plant can produce antibodies to cancer and can buffer blood glucose levels for diabetics and there are many other health benefits.
|Turtle Lake Booth|
At the Turtle Lake booth one could learn many ways to incorporate this plant into your diet from dandelion quiche, dandelion pesto, tea and a dandelion lemonade. The Dirty Hands Collective, a radical activist group provided free food, in the style of Food not Bombs, hearty dark rye bread with salad and pasta smothered in dandelion pesto. While eating you could browse the numerous hand- made anarchist Zines arranged at their booth.
|Dirty Hands Collective Zines|
Towards to end of the day as the sun began to sink in the cloudy sky a May Pole was carefully erected and Katrina guided us in the ins and outs of the traditional May Pole dance.
|May Pole Dance|
It started well, the weaving of people under and over but at one point chaos emerged and the pole and people were entangled in a web of multicolored strands. Everyone was laughing and dancing and taking care of each other.
Katrina exclaimed the end of the dance “sometimes love can get messy!"
The festival was one of love not only for each other but for this wonderful medicinal plant we call the dandelion so please try not to pull it from your fields and gardens, try not to think of it as messy, take care of it, respect its healing properties, go out and find some and taste that dark green leaf, make some tea, or put it in your salad, you will not be disappointed!