One of the cool things about being a writer is the chance to learn and experience a wide variety of subjects. Sure, you can write about everything, but really embracing a subject both adds texture and enjoyment to life and fiction. Sometimes, the subject can be as simple and common as the dandelion.
Most of us think of dandelions as pests invading our yards or as those special flowers we wished upon as children. But there’s a lot more to the dandelion than meets the eye.
For example, they were commonly eaten in Europe during the medieval period, a historical time that has greatly influenced the fantasy genre. Yet how many fantasy stories mention them as a staple at table? The Romans also appreciated them as well as other times and regions, all of which have influenced speculative fiction settings. Like today and in real life, in fiction they’re too commonly overlooked.
I could try to explain more about the dandelion, but these people do a better job. Unfortunately, I was unable to find a video that includes much historical information, but this first covers some of the folklore that characters in fantasy or historical fiction might well believe.
This second video talks more about how dandelions are eaten today. A number of videos exist out there that cover this topic, but this one is one packs in a lot of information and has some humor. Consider how characters in your favorite novel or in your own writing might use similar techniques.
With regards to historical consumption, I’ve mainly seen dandelions referenced as a salad green in medieval history, but dandelion wine is also perfectly viable for characters and settings inspired by the medieval period.
Also, in the second video, the instructor mentions that dandelions are a good source of protein and calories in the plant world. While I don’t have a historical source to verify this idea, it seems plausible that dandelions might have helped the poor dirt sucking serfs survive in a world where their hunting options, and thus main protein source, were strictly limited and meat came at a premium.
When writing any fiction inspired by history, don’t overlook the obvious and common. Sometimes, simple things like dandelions can give fiction a nice accenting flavor.