Biodynamic Preparations: Dandelion
Thank you to our guest blogger, Kelly Stanley from our Herb Garden, who in a series of blog posts, will introduce the herbs used in biodynamic practices. Kimberton Hills operates a biodynamic farm.
Biodynamics is a holistic, ecological and ethical approach to farming, gardening, food and nutrition. Biodynamics was first developed in the early 1920s based on the spiritual insights and practical suggestions of the Austrian writer, educator and social activist Dr. Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925). Biodynamic farmers strive to create a diversified, balanced farm ecosystem that generates health and fertility as much as possible from within the farm itself. Preparations made from fermented manure, minerals and herbs are used to help restore and harmonize the vital life forces of the farm and to enhance the nutrition, quality and flavor of the food being raised. Biodynamic practitioners also recognize and strive to work in cooperation with the subtle influences of the wider cosmos on soil, plant and animal health. (via Biodynamic Association)
At first the creation and use of the biodynamic preps may seem odd. It took until working with the land, and the willingness to learn, to realize how fortunate we are to live in a community that uses biodynamic practices. Although still an amateur, I am impressed and inspired by how these principles help heal the earth, and allow us to be more connected to nature both physically and spiritually.
I’ve been fortunate enough to work closely with the six different herbs used to make up the compost preps. I would like to share with those who are unfamiliar, yet curious, of why and how each one is used. I will discuss each of the six herbs in hopes that it will inspire you, as it did for me.
First I will discuss a favorite of mine, the Dandelion.
Dandelion (Taraxacum officinalis) BD 506
Dandelion gives two of the key elements required for healthy soil and strong plant growth – silica and potassium. Silica is also vital for improving cell structure and strength allowing plant sap to flow smoothly. It is hugely beneficial in creating a strong resistance to mildews specifically powdery mildew.
Dandelion detoxifies the soil of heavy metals, and, in the human body, has been used since ancient times as a spring tonic and liver cleanser, Jupiter also associated with the liver. (Porter, Applied Biodynamics)
To make the BD 506, newly opened dandelion flowers are collected early in the morning. The ideal stage of development for the flowers is the “button” or “bulls-eye” stage, where the flower has opened, but some of the petals are still held tightly together in the center. They are then laid out to dry, and covered with thin muslin cloth to lessen the flowers impulse to go to seed. After drying for 2-3 days, the flowers can be stored in a glass jar.
This prep is made in the fall by carefully packing the slightly moistened dandelion flowers inside the lining of the digestive tract of a cow about four inches in diameter (also known as a mesentery).
According to Dr Richard Thorton Smith, council member of the Biodynamic Agricultural Association, “The significance of the mesentery is that it is a membrane which encases and protects major internal organs which do not experience outer sensations. By enclosing in the mesentery, the dandelion substance effectively becomes an organ, retaining outer impressions drawn in by the silica. The preparation therefore enables plants to be highly sensitive to their surroundings and therefore to the organism of the whole farm.”
This dandelion “packet” is then stitched closed with thick cotton thread. It is then buried in a dry location somewhere on the farm, making sure to mark the spot so it can be found later, as it will remain in the ground until spring. The Earth’s forces, which Steiner says are most active underground during the winter, infuse the buried dandelion with cosmic forces.
P.S. Eat a salad of dandelion greens as often as possible (look for the young tender leaves.) I know it’s bitter, but if you prepare it right it’s not bad. Mix finely chopped leaves with farmers cheese, add to soups or stews, make pestos, or add it to other leafy greens. Your stomach, intestines, gallbladder, liver, bladder, and kidneys will thank you for doing so. The root is also used by many as a coffee substitute and liver tonic.
“Our time is calling for us as farmers and gardeners to wake up to our potential to be active inwardly as well as outwardly. In this way our work can bring the spirit of healing into the very food (and herbs) that is grown through our care.” – Sherry Wildfeuer