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‘Tis the Season . . . for Dandelions

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To some people, this lawn would be a nightmare. To others, it's a season of wine and salads.

To some people, this lawn would be a nightmare. To others, it’s a season of wine and salads.

My 3-year-old daughter practically leaps out of the house in the morning these days. Enthralled by the flowers growing by our woods’ edge, she can’t wait to pick a fist full.

I always think of my grandmother, too, in April. Just as her large wooden canning cupboard was all but picked bare of the vegetables she had “put up” the previous fall, she depended on the early spring harvest from the lawns and streams in and around Reeves Road in Bradford, Maine. From about this time of year to at least late June, we fully depended on whatever Gram could gather for the dinner table. The leaves of the garlic mustard, chickweed, shepherd’s purse, yellow dock and sheep sorrel are at their most tender this time of year. Fiddleheads from the stream beds were a real treat.

It was the dandelions, though, that got my grandmother most excited. The same plants that enthrall my daughter three generations later would keep Gram positively euphoric for weeks.

As my neighbor applies weed ‘n feed to his lawn to kill his dandelions, I sit here and roll my eyes for the millionth time about how far we’ve moved from reason in just my lifetime. I can easily get frustrated, even angry. Yet this morning, as my wife, Katie, sat down to write this week’s grocery list, I was inspired to think of all the different ways Gram used to use dandelions. Remembering her celebrating “a good mess of greens” is a healthier way to spend a Sunday morning.

Here are just a few of her recipes:

DANDELION WINE
(As I recall, this drink is not for the faint of heart or palette.)
1 qt. dandelion blossoms
1 gallon water
1/2 cup tepid water
1 yeast cake
1 pound seedless raisins
6 cups sugar
1 lemon and orange, or both

Measure a quart of the dandelion blossoms, but do not use any of the stems. Put them into a large saucepan with the water and boil for 30 minutes. Pour the resulting liquid through a strainer, then strain through a cheesecloth into a large pan.When cool, add the yeast cake, dissolved in the tepid water, raisins, sugar, lemon and orange, cut into small pieces (including the skins). Stir it everyday for at least weeks, then strain and let settle for a day. Now strain carefully through cheesecloth until clean.

At this point, you can just bottle and seal the liquid and you’ll have drinkable wine in two or three weeks. Some folks do not seal the bottles, however, and allow the liquid to ferment longer by placing a filter over the top of the bottle. Here’s a link to a fairly elaborate process: http://www.wikihow.com/Make-Dandelion-Wine.

STEAMED DANDELIONS
These were the staple of our meals from April to June. I always thought they were bitter as a child, but have grown to love them as an adult. I melt butter over mine, but most of my family members douse them with vinegar. Gram simply steamed hers in her pressure cooker (do people use those anymore), but today’s chefs have millions of variations on the theme. Here’s one: http://www.ifood.tv/recipe/steamed-dandelion-greens.

DANDELION PASTA (no pasta required)
I’ve seen this called dandelion green fettuccini in some cookbooks. It’s really quite simple.

2 cups Dandelion greens
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups flour
Salt to season

Spin the dandelion greens and eggs in a blender or bowl, then add salt and start adding flour while beating with a spoon. Add the flour until the dough is fairly stiff. Put some more flour on a cutting board and kneed the dandelion-filled dough for about 5 minutes and then roll it out to a thinkness of about a quarter inch or less. After it dries for an hour, but the dough into thin strips and cook them in boiling water for no more than two minutes.

There are probably as many variations on the theme of dandelions-as-food as there are cooks in the kitchen. If you have some favorite recipes, please share them with other members of our SafeLawns community.

About The Author

Paul Tukey

An international leader of the green movement, Mr. Tukey is a journalist, author, filmmaker, TV host, activist and award-winning public speaker, who is widely recognized as North America's leading advocate for landscape sustainability and toxic pesticide reduction strategies.

Number of Entries : 1024
  • Connie Gillies

    If you dig the dandelions before they flower, they are not bitter,according to my Italian grandmother.
    I usually just use them as salad greens after washing well and
    discarding any buds.

  • Catherine Iaccarino

    When I am outside kneeling in my Church of the Holy Garden, I

    always smile at the one gift of nature that I associate so closely with

    sanctity. You may think it’s the cardinal, praying mantis or perhaps the

    jack in the pulpit, but no. It’s the dandelion. “What? What is this

    blasphemy?” you might ask. Think, I mean really think. Get past the

    years of brain washing, negative demon seed dandelion dogma. Go

    back to your childhood when all you knew was that it was that ever

    constant, pretty, bright, yellow flower that said hello in Spring and good-

    bye in Fall. When even in death it brought the joy of closing your eyes

    and wishing on those fluffy angle winged seeds. Then you would blow

    them off with your prayer to the heavens.

    It doesn’t have to stop there with supplying us with cherished

    childhood memories. No, along with the soul, it heals the body. It has

    more nutritional value than most of those expensive daily vitamins we

    are forced to swallow every morning. It is probably the only plant that

    you can eat every part of. The flowers are great in a light batter and

    then fried. The new leaves are delicious in a salad. Don’t believe me,

    well just go to some grocery stores and you’ll see them in the vegetable

    isle for $1.59 a bunch. The root can be made into a tea or a wine,

    depending on your legal age or preference.

    So, what do we do to this plant that gives us the miracle of better

    health? We become Roman solders. Macho men march across our

    TV screen, armed with weapons of chemical mass destruction to

    persecute the dandelion, all in the name of the lawn. Unlike the

    dandelion the lawn, I’m sorry to say, is environmentally useless. Not only

    that but it is in constant need of depleting our water supply and

    finances, polluting our soil with sprays, our air with mower fumes and all

    for the sake of slugs. Let’s face it. The only purpose of the lawn, save

    vanity, is for people to play on and slugs to banquet on.

    Does the dandelion let us fall prey to the false ideal of the grasses?

    No. It keeps the faith that we will see the light and comes back to

    remind us season after season, after season, after season. Okay, so

    maybe you’re not a complete convert. Perhaps you still have your

    degree of doubts. But, before you throw that chemical or stone at that

    weed also known as the lions-tooth, blow-ball and cankerwort just think.

    What would Jesus do? Me? What do I do? I smile, close my eyes,

    wish we’d cut the dandelion some slack and blow the seeds to the

    heavens.

    By,
    Catherine Iaccarino

    • Julie

      Oh Catherine…that was so beautifully written. Thank you for brightening my day. I will think of you next time I walk through my dandelion crop in the front yard ;-)

    • richard castle

      Well written, ample giraffes, passion for Mother Earth and those least likely to defend themselves. Hear and Here Yee, Cathie the Great.

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