Dandelions come full circle
Wednesday, July 23, 2008 | 01:05 PM ET
by Kevin Yarr, CBCNews.ca
Maybe you already know that dandelions are an alien invader species in North America, brought here centuries ago on purpose by early European settlers who coveted them as a food source. I have known this for some time, but I still get annoyed thinking about it.
But I was reminded this week how clouds have silver linings when a joint federal-provincial commission on the future of agriculture on P.E.I. released its first report. This report is a snapshot of the current state of the industry; recommendations will come later this year.
It came as no surprise to anyone paying even casual attention of the state of things that the situation is bleak.
The report did contain some interesting numbers to underline just how bad things are. The industry has not had a profitable year since 2003, and eat-local campaigns, while somewhat helpful, could at best consume only seven per cent of what is produced on this small Island.
So what does this have to do with dandelions?
While still not making recommendations, the commission did begin to suggest the industry needs to radically change direction. Little P.E.I. cannot compete on the food commodities market, so it needs to find ways to set itself apart, and suggested taking advantage of the Island's pastoral landscapes to differentiate itself in the market.
And this brings me back to dandelions, and a farmer named Raymond Loo.
Loo, seen here with a specialized dandelion planter, is selling the flower's roots on the back of Anne of Green Gables (CBC)
Loo has been making connections in Japan over the last few years, working to tie together two of P.E.I.'s most successful industries: agriculture and Anne of Green Gables. He believes he may have hit on a winner with dandelions.
Loo has a contract with a Japanese company to provide about 1,400 kg of dried dandelion root, which the company will roast and grind to make a coffee-like beverage that is popular in Japan. The sale is possible because the company will be able to market the drink as coming from the land of Anne, who is an extremely popular character in Japan.
P.E.I. will need a lot more creative thinking like this to turn the farming industry around, and there is no guarantee of success. The Island's hog processing plant recently closed down after a failed effort to focus on "natural" pork, as produced on pastoral P.E.I.
But no matter how you slice your french fries, it seems the days of 100,000+ acres of P.E.I. potatoes are over.
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From trends and culture to politics and nutrition, Food Bytes serves up tasty tidbits about food and the issues surrounding it that flavour our everyday lives.
About the writers
Amber Hildebrandt writes for CBCNews.ca in Toronto. Growing up on a farm in Manitoba, she acquired an insatiable appetite, but it was during a stint in Japan that she developed her discerning tastebuds and "foodie" ways.
Andrea Chiu is an associate producer at CBC Radio Digital. Though she loves to eat, cook and discuss food, don't ask her to bake. It never turns out well. She tweets as @TOfoodie on Twitter and organizes food and wine events in Toronto called FoodieMeet.
Tara Kimura is the consumer life reporter for CBCNews.ca, covering a wide range of issues that range from rising food costs and the growing organic movement, to new trends in the marketplace.
Andree Lau is a CBC web reporter in Calgary. Her journalism career includes seven years as a CBC-TV reporter. Her own blog called "are you gonna eat that?" chronicles her eating adventures (including sampling snake and camel hoof tendon).
Jessica Wong is a CBCNews.ca writer who loves to eat and cook, as well as discuss, read and watch programming about food, sometimes all at once.
Kevin Yarr, CBCNews.ca's writer in Prince Edward Island, wrote about food and beer for national and regional magazines before joining the CBC. He acquired a desire for new tastes on his first trip to Europe, and an appreciation of eating locally and in season when he finally settled down on P.E.I.
Elizabeth Bridge is a writer with the CBC Digital Archives in Toronto. She first ventured into the kitchen as a child to indulge a sweet tooth by baking cookies and making fudge. A student budget compelled her to be a vegetarian (for a while) and instilled in her an ongoing curiosity about food and cooking.
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