By Sonomi Obinata 

In the middle of the cold winter, we farmers get to sit and think thoughts, and imagine the wonderful things we will create when warmth returns with spring. It was January 2016 when I attended the Pfeiffer Center Midwinter Agricultural Intensive. We focused on the study of two biodynamic preparation plants: yarrow and dandelion. This study inspired me to start an event on (then) KK’s The Farm, which I called the Dandelion Festival. I wish everybody would host an event dedicated to the dandelion to celebrate the wonders of spring. 

In our studies, longtime biodynamic practitioner and teacher, Harald Hoven, instructed us to stand next to the dandelion and to observe the plant, first looking at it out of focus then in focus. I asked inwardly, "May I know who you are?" Reaching out to this plant, I wished nothing but to understand it. I tried to feel it, to perceive what it would tell me. Bright warmth came in, and the plant seemed to say, “I am here to help you—you need us.” I wasn’t sure if I was hearing myself speak or if something else was indeed speaking to me. It was one of those moments that we biodynamic farmers experience, we who spend time with our plants doing our best for their growth and always wondering what more can be done. Sometimes something comes into our imagination. I placed those important words aside and continued to study the physical parts of the plant. 

Dandelion leaves are solid green with a zig zag outline. Each side of a leaf may be asymmetrical, or symmetrical—they do not seem to care for a perfect shape, but rather for the good balance that nature always creates. Each single leaf grows in a spiral, one above the next, taking care that the maximum amount of sunlight is absorbed. They lift themselves up, moving towards the sun. The leaf vein carries within it a beautiful purple tone, and the whole of the leaf is tender and smooth, but also vibrant and solid in texture. It has almost no smell, one that resembles the presence of water. 

When I put it in my mouth, it was tasty—not sweet, but bitter.

The flower is very sensitive to the sun. If the day is dark and gloomy, the stem of the flower will not stand. But when it is sunny and warm it stands, upright—a long single stem with a bright yellow flower made of hundreds of petals in the center. One can tell that the flower is fresh and full of vigor when there is a bull’s eye in the center. Surrounding the eye are stamens waiting to unfurl and release that sweet yellow pollen; this dense powder, when touched, will turn your finger yellow. The pollen of the dandelion is important food for the honeybee after a long, cold winter. It is the first real and plentiful food that they can survive on. In the spring, if you don’t yet see the flower, I encourage you to approach the plant and take a peek at the cluster of leaves. Within it you will likely find many potential flowers that look like buttons sitting there ready to burst out and up towards the sky. 

The root, oh boy. If you ever try to eradicate the dandelion, you may find it difficult to do because the tap roots go down so deep. It is likely you’ll end up leaving some of it in the ground. These long, expressive tap roots help to improve the condition of the soil by breaking up compact ground. They are also edible, like any part of this plant, and in fact, can be used as an amazing alternative to coffee. It is best to harvest the roots in the early spring or fall. They must then be rinsed well (a brush may be required in order to remove the soil, though a little soil never hurt anyone!), chopped, and roasted in the oven until lightly toasted. Once roasted, the roots must be ground in the same manner as is the case for regular coffee, but note that dandelion roots do not contain caffeine. It carries an earthy flavor that gives warmth and tastes bitter like any good coffee does.

In this moment, I was fully aware of this familiar plant whose presence I have seen everywhere in the world. I wondered,"Why are you here on this Earth?”

Where I live now, on the Eastern end of Long Island, New York, they start to bloom after the Spring Equinox and through Easter and Mother’s Day. They pop up everywhere—the road side, along vineyard rows, lawns, parking lots, school playgrounds, little cracks between steps. Once I saw one growing out from the bark of a tree trunk. Then a clear vision from the past came in: she was growing out of the crack of hard, flat, gray, concrete, no soil around, a blooming, bright yellow flower. I saw her on the way to school as a child.  

What does the dandelion mean to you? Weed? Food? Wish blower? I was struck by what I perceived. When one learns about the dandelion from Deb Soule and Jean David Derreumaux, it is from a medicinal point of view. Intake of the leaf in the spring helps cleanse and support the functioning of the liver and gallbladder as the body comes out of its long winter hibernation. The leaves contain “iron, phosphorus, sodium, and particularly large amounts of calcium and potassium.”¹ Interestingly, a recent study showed that dandelions can block spike proteins from binding to the ACE2 cell surface receptors in human lung and kidney cells.² 

Mac Mead read from the Agriculture Course by Rudolf Steiner: 

The innocent, yellow dandelion is a tremendous asset because it mediates between the fine homeopathic distribution of silicic acid in the cosmos, and the silicic acid that is actually used over the whole region. The dandelion is really a kind of messenger from heaven.³ 

Mac told us that dandelions can communicate with each other miles and miles away within a region or on opposite sides of a lake, sending signal to help one another. That is truly remarkable. Plants do not have legs to move around, but there are super-sensible forces working here as everywhere, which are not always detectable by modern science.  

When I heard, “I am here to help you—you need us,” I felt that I was being given wise wisdom whispered from the cosmos.

So, I stood up to answer: “I am listening, and I support you. You continue to return more and more, it seems, even as we call you a weed and attempt to eliminate you for a perfect green lawn. Your life force is so strong to do what plants do—give and give and give, constantly. That is because you are the cure. I promote you! I will do what I can to help shift people’s mindset, to encourage them to refrain from calling you the enemy of the lawn." 

At the closing of the Midwinter Agricultural Intensive, I stood up and thanked the teachers, and I announced to the group: "I am going to host a Dandelion Festival at KK’s The Farm to celebrate spring." Most of the attendees were not sure what I was trying to say since my speech was not so good at the time. But some looked at me with understanding, like Alex Tuchman, who joined this celebration with an online event at Spikenard Honeybee Sanctuary in the spring of 2021. The Dandelion Festival is an awareness event for when the Earth awakens in the Northern Hemisphere, and encourages a sensitivity to this resurrection. Let’s have a Dandelion Festival all around the world! It falls around the time of Easter, Earth Day, and Mother’s Day—a perfect time to celebrate this brilliant yellow flower. How amazing this plant is. We must embrace it, all of them! Let them burst forth, and welcome Spring! 

For any readers in the Hudson Valley, New York, Churchtown Dairy will be hosting its First Annual Dandelion Festival, April 30th! Please visit www.churchtowndairy.org/events for more details.

References:

  1. Doug Elliott, Wild Roots: A Forager’s Guide to the Edible and Medicinal Roots, Tubers, Corms, and Rhizomes of North America (Rochester: Healing Arts Press, 1995), 71.  
  2. Hoai Thi Thu Tran et al., “In Vitro Effect of Taraxacum officinale Leaf Aqueous Extract on the Interaction between ACE2 Cell Surface Receptor and SARS-CoV-2 Spike Protein D614 and Four Mutants,” Pharmaceuticals 14, no. 10 (2021): 1055. doi:10.3390/ph14101055.
  3. Rudolf Steiner, Agriculture: Spiritual Foundations for the Renewal of Agriculture, trans. Catherine E. Creeger and Malcolm Gardner, ed. Malcolm Gardner (East Troy: Bio-Dynamic Farming and Gardening Association Inc., 1993), 103-04.

Sonomi Obinata was born in Kanagawa, Japan. She grew up on her grandfather’s farm where he tended an orchard, rice-paddy, bamboo forest, and green tea bushes. She was raised with a Shinto/Buddhist appreciation for the divinity of nature. After moving to Southold, New York in 2001, she met KK Haspel at (then) KK’s the Farm. She helped with the school garden project that KK had started in all of the public schools on eastern Long Island. After the nuclear disaster of Fukushima in 2011, Sonomi became much more serious about learning the practice of biodynamic agriculture. Since KK’s passing in 2014, Sonomi has continued to help Ira Haspel to maintain the quality of biodynamic practice at Ira + KK’s Farm Sanctuary. Currently she is a participant of the Biodynamic Farmer Development Year offered by the Biodynamic Demeter Alliance. She is committed to spreading the awareness of the importance of the dandelion around the world.

Comments

Ira Haspel (not verified) said:

Sonomi planted dandelion seeds in three of our raised beds.  One on flower time, one on leaf time and one on root time.  The second photo shows them left to right respectively.

The Dandelion Festival was the result of her "heart felt striving" - engaging her thinking, feeling and willing.

Dani Golden (not verified) said:

Excellent article Sonomi.

You are an inspiration!

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