‘Tis the Season . . . for Dandelions
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:
(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.
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
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.