The Teeth of the Lion
by: Anita Sanchez
The Story of the Beloved and Despised Dandelion
Massachusetts, About 1621
A woman kneels in the rich, dark soil of a garden. Golden sunlight pours down on the freshly-turned earth, and the comforting warmth helps her to forget the cold. After a winter filled with hardship, death, and sorrow, it had seemed as if the sun would never shine again. But now the grass is greening, and spring has come at last.
She crumbles the soil between her fingers, preparing it carefully for the seeds. It is vitally important that these seeds grow: she is planting an herb garden, of plants carefully chosen for their healing powers. She lifts her tired eyes and scans the forbidding tangle of trees crowding close to the huts of the little settlement. Here there are no doctors' offices or apothecary shops, only wilderness. The plants she grows in her garden will be medicines that might make the difference between life and death for her family in this terrifying New World.
She etches a furrow in the fertile soil, then carefully sprinkles in a row of tiny brown specks. She pats the soil over them lovingly, murmuring a prayer over the precious seeds: a heartfelt prayer that dandelions will grow, where before there was only the barren grass.
…While the men did the heavy work of cutting down the trees and plowing, gardening was the women's chore. In the newly-cleared sunny spaces, they set themselves to create herb gardens, little square-edged plots seeded with familiar, home-like plants—small and hopeful patches of order in the chaos of the wilderness. The herb gardens were filled with plants that were the housewives' indispensable medicine chest.
…All parts of the dandelion plant—leaf, root, and flower—had been known for a millennia as efficacious remedies against a host of ailments, and were hailed in popular "herbals," or books of plant lore, as powerful medicine. The anxious wives and mothers, facing so many hardships in the New World, early planted the seeds of such useful plants. Although no one understood why dandelions were good medicine, everyone knew that they worked. Dandelions' golden blossoms were considered one of the most useful flowers in the garden.
You may recall from your childhood eating dandelion greens or drinking dandelion tea, making chains of the stems and flowers, blowing the seeds from the puff ball into the wind, being carefree while enjoying this prolific flowering plant. You may have been disappointed to learn that you were playing with a disgusting weed. But, now the world can learn the true, amazing, secrets of this wonderful herb, the dandelion!
In Anita Sanchez' book, The Teeth of the Lion—The Story of the Beloved and Despised Dandelion, you'll journey through the natural history of the dandelion and learn about its long association with humans. Well adapted ecologically to spread into and thrive within disturbed sites—such as the lawns, playgrounds, roadsides, and parking lots in which they are most often encountered today, and viewed as weeds—dandelions also have had a lengthy, welcomed association with humans as medicine, food, and objects of ritual, magic, and folklore.