Herb of the Year for 2021: Parsley (Petroselinum crispum)
Flower of the Month for April: Daisy
April is National Poetry Month
April Feature: A Dandy Little Herb
April 5: Today begins Egg Salad Week, dedicated to using all those eggs you and the kids colored for Easter.
April 7: Dandelion Day is sometimes celebrated along about now, Must be spring!
April 10: Arbor Day. The first Arbor Day was observed in 1872, in Nebraska. If you’re not planting one this year, choose one or two for a special hug and thank them for their role in reducing CO2, storing carbon, and producing oxygen. Trees help reduce the impact of climate change.
April 11: Licorice Day. A cup of licorice tea, anyone? An immune-system booster, licorice helps to protect against upper respiratory infections.
April 16: National Stress Awareness Day–even with a postponed tax date, there’s plenty of stress. Relaxing choices: a cup of mint tea, a relaxing scented bath, one of the Darling Dahlias mysteries.
April 18: Step outside and watch for bees, doing their spring thing.
April 22: International Earth Day. Please. Let’s not get so focused on our immediate challenges that we forget the crisis facing our planet.
April 23: St. George’s Day. Be on the lookout for fleeing dragons!
April 25: National Zucchini Bread Day (Nice, but in April? Doesn’t this belong in July, when zukes are doing their thing?)
April 28: Maryland was admitted to the Union on this day in 1788. Its state flower: the black-eyed Susan.
April 29: On this day in 1796, Amelia Simmons’ cookbook, American Cookery, was published. It is the first cookbook by an American author.
Ever wonder how the dandelion got its name?
The word dandelion is the way English folk pronounced the French phrase dent de lion, or tooth of the lion. Named for the plant’s toothed leaves, perhaps? Or maybe the blossom’s color—the same yellow used to picture heraldic lions? Or both.
The dandelion’s other folk names are also descriptive. “The devil’s milk pail” refers to the sticky white sap that oozes from the broken root, used to remove warts and treat other skin ailments. “Swine’s snout” describes the closed blossom. “Puffball” is exactly the right name for the fly-away seeds. And “monk’s head” is a good way of describing the smooth, bald head that pokes up out of the grass after the seeds have blown away.
The Medicinal Dandelion
What sort of medicine? We can find a clue in the inelegant name “piss-a-bed.” The plant produces taraxacin, stimulating the kidneys to produce urine. Because the dandelion is high in potassium, a vital nutrient lost when the kidneys do their job, herbalists prefer it to chemical diuretics. In the many centuries before modern medicine, the dandelion was used to treat heartburn, liver complaints, gall stones, jaundice, and dropsy (what we now call congestive heart failure). And dandelion salve was a pain-relieving standby in many medicine cabinets.
The Culinary Dandelion
Your backyard dandelions (if they haven’t been sprayed with something noxious) can also put in an appearance at your table. The leafy greens are a zestier version of arugula and add a nice bite to raw spring-green salads. Cooking calms them down. Use in any dish that calls for kale, chard, collard greens, or mustard greens. Or how about a pesto? Here’s one made with dandelion greens and pumpkin seeds that will charm any pasta/pesto lover. Dandelion jelly is an old-fashioned favorite, and dandelion wine was my grandfather’s spring specialty. For a bushel of hand-picked wine, jelly, and syrup recipes, check out this Tipnut page.
Roses are red,
Violets are blue;
But they don’t get around
Like the dandelions do.
For more about medicinal wild plants, cunsult these useful guides:
A Field Guide to Medicinal Plants and Herbs (Eastern and Central North America), Peterson Guide, by noted herbalists Steven Foster and James Duke
Identifying and Harvesting Medicinal Plants in Wild (and Not So Wild) Places by Steve Brill
Celebrate Earth Day by choosing one way to modify your lifestyle during the coming year, to reduce your footprint on the planet.
Find out what St. George has to do with dragons. Not worried about dragons but need to defend against snakes? Try these plants, said to be have snake-repellant scent properties: lemongrass, marigold, onions and garlic, mugwort. For more, look here.
Take a look at Amelia Simmons‘ famous 1798 cookbook, the first written by an American woman for American women. It introduced the first printed recipes for Hoe Cake. “Indian meal” is what we know as cornmeal; hoe cake was so called because the batter was stiff enough to bake on a hoe held over a cooking fire. Through the magic of the internet, you are looking at the original pages of this fascinating historical document. (But thank your lucky stars for standard measurements, brought to us by Fannie Farmer in 1896.)
Soothe that pandemic-produced stress with these helpful herbal fragrances. Choose scented candles or use a diffuser with essential oils.
- Rose, for depression, irritability
- Orange, for apprehension, nervous tension
- Ylang-ylang, for sleeplessness, nervous tension
- Lavender, for tension, anxiety, and sleeplessness
Go native. Where bees are concerned, native is nicer. Wild bees are already adapted to the native plants of their area, so if you want to attract more native bees, plant more natives. In many parts of the U.S., this will include wildflowers like coreopsis, gaillardia, basketflowers, toadflax, sunflowers, red clover, black-eyed Susans, and monarda.
And speaking of black-eyed Susan, learn about its medicinal properties (a good substitute for echinacea) and watch for its pretty bloom throughout late spring and summer.
Listen to one of Susan’s podcasts about the lore and magic of herbs. Each one is fun—and you’ll learn something you didn’t know about your favorite herb!
Find out what Susan is up to these days by visiting her blog, Lifescapes. There’s always something interesting going on in the Texas Hill Country. On her “other” blog, BookScapes, she posts book reviews, bookish thoughts, and notes on the fast-changing world of books