One plant alone can change the American dynamic: The common dandelion. There are several species of dandelion in the U.S., all are edible.
The meaning of the Latin name for this very familiar plant attests to its nutritional value. Taraxacum offinale means "offical remedy for disorders", referring to the effects of its high vitamin A, calcium and iron content.
Historically, it was used as a spring tonic, much appreciated after a long winter without fresh vegetables. As a spring tonic, it's right up there with nettles, for mineral content and a healthy kick-in-the-blood.
Dandelion root has been used by European herbalists for centuries to treat diabetes and liver diseases, and as a diuretic and laxative.
The leaves are, to our American taste, bitter. That is due to the tannins. And our corrupted taste buds. The young leaves are tasty in salads, and even steamed as a green. Dried, the leaves (and whole plant, for that matter), make a nutritious and medicinal tea.
The flower heads, harvested in the spring and early summer, make a superb batter-fried fritter.
Dandelions are alien to America; they did not originate in this country and are now considered weeds. One scenario has the European settlers bringing them along to provide a longer-lasting source of flowers for their bee colonies, for which dandelions are still valuable today. They are so prevalent and bloom so long that they help sustain honeybees between bloomings of the more coveted but less prolific flowers, such as apple trees.
We could save ourselves a lot of money, and improve our health in the process, by training ourselves to take advantage of the unfamiliar but valuable green pharmacy that surrounds us.
So here's the challenge: eat 3 raw dandelion leaves every day, for 30 days. NOTE: be sure they have NOT BEEN SPRAYED. Start with small ones if the bitterness is distasteful. You may soon be surprised to find yourself craving more, and graduate to the larger leaves. Your tastebuds will develop a tolerance for the bitter, your tummy will sing your praises, and your view of weeding may take a dramatic change. Think of the money saved on poisonous sprays and the attendant evils...
We'll be exploring dandelion's virtues, along with some medicinal and kitchen recipes.