May 02, 2006
As the semester ends, my thoughts turn to gardening and yard work. We are just now getting some warm weather here. The blossoms on my crabapple trees burst forth yesterday. The lilacs will open in another week or so. I haven’t yet mowed the lawn yet, and I hate to do so, for I love the cheery yellow dandelions that are so beautiful and resilient.
When I was little, my father used to give us red buckets to fill with dandelion flowers, and from all these flowers, he would make dandelion wine in his basement. I haven’t had dandelion wine in maybe thirty years, but I still remember what it tastes like: it tastes like summer. I can remember sitting on the grassy hill in front of my parents’ house waiting for my grandmother and aunt to come for their Easter visit – they were driving in from out of town – and my mother and siblings and I whiled away an afternoon making chains from dandelions, lovely flower necklaces to wear around our necks and wreaths of dandelions for our hair.
We always played the game of holding a dandelion flower under your sibling’s chin to see if she liked butter. If you saw a yellow reflection, that meant she did. Of course, that was silly – in those days, we all liked butter. Summer foods – corn on the cob, little salt potatoes, clams in their shells – always were served with tin bowls of melted butter. Those lazy summer afternoons came long before my mother started worrying about cholesterol or I considered the ethics of being a vegan.
Of course, even earlier in the spring, before the yellow flowers came out, my mother would send us out with a plastic bowl to pick dandelion greens for a salad for dinner. As a kid, I found the greens bitter and tough to chew compared to store-bought lettuce, but as an adult, I love dandelion greens. My father calls them a "spring tonic." When I was a teenager, I used to roll my eyes when he would go on and on about how great a dandelion salad was, but a botanist friend assures me that he is right: dandelion greens are more nutritious than pretty much anything I could buy at the store, filled with iron and calcium, all sorts of vitamins and minerals.
The sight of all those bright yellow flowers happily popping up all over my lawn, and along the roadsides and ditches, makes me smile because they mean that summer is coming. I almost hate to get out the lawnmower this week, but I know that I need not worry too much. The dandelion is, above all else, persistent and reliable. It always comes back.
Posted by jo(e)