Commonly regarded as an invasive weed in my part of the world, dandelions push their mighty heads through the grass every year announcing spring’s arrival. They are a strong, persistent little weed. Technically speaking, though, dandelions aren’t really weeds as they do no ecological damage to the environment. Instead, they are perennial herbs, much like mint or chives, but with a much more famous past. Romanticized by European poets for their beauty and revered by most others for their varied medicinal purposes, dandelions used to be coveted, not shunned. (Learn more about dandelions here.)
However, the suburban invention of the perfectly manicured lawn combined with the North American ideology of “Keeping Up With Jones’s” proved to be the dandelion’s nail in the coffin. My grandma used to pick dandelions and fry them in olive oil and garlic much like spinach. She and her sister would forage suburban roadsides and midwestern subdivisions for the tasty little treats and my whole family would laugh at the absurdity.
Not indigenous to the US, dandelions were most likely brought here by settlers for medicinal purposes, as their health benefits are long and varied. Their nutritional value beats mosts vegetables found in your backyard garden. They also fertilize your grass, provide nourishment for birds and bees, and have been known to grant a wish or two when their seedy puff is blown into the wind by little lips.
We don’t like to use chemicals on our lawns for a variety of reasons, so each year we have a bunch of dandelions to contend with — or cultivate — depending on your perspective. After a very successful avocado skin and pit dyeing session and after listening to my husband grumble incessantly about his never-ending fight with the dandelions, I wondered if it was possible to use them as a type of eco-dye. I went into the backyard, snipping the heads of what looked like the most thriving dandelions, and placed them in a paper bag. I boiled about four cups of water, turned off the heat and dumped my bag of dandelions into the pot to steep. Careful not to smash their heads, I gently stirred and put the top of the pot on and left it for a few hours.
I drained the mixture twice. First I simply dumped the mixture into a fine-mesh strainer and discarded the used dandelions heads, reserving the water in a bowl. I then lined the same strainer with cheesecloth and restrained the water to remove any little pieces of leaves, seed, or petal. Since the mixture had been set aside to steep for a few hours, it was already room temperature, so I moved ahead with the dyeing process. (Watch my coffee-dyeing video for a step-by-step process of my super easy dyeing method.) I added a little of the dandelion dye to a half-sheet pan, added my papers and allowed it to soak for an hour. I removed my papers from the dye and arranged them carefully on a towel or two on the kitchen counter.
After air-drying for a few hours, the result was clear — my papers were crinkly yellow. I was absolutely amazed! About a week later, I repeated the whole process and now I have a stack of papers, index cards, and doilies ranging from bright yellow to yellowish-green just in time for summer journaling.
I pulled together some little packages of these papers for sale in my Etsy store, if interested! Click here to view.
Till next time,