May 02, 2006

Spring flowers

dandelions

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.

25 comments:

Mona Buonanotte said...

I want to roll around in your photo!

My dad also made dandelion wine, and I still remember the careful way we had to pick them. We also picked the yellow heads, carefully tore off the stems and most of their green undertow, dipped them in egg wash and cracker crumbs, and deep fried them. Mmmm...I can still taste those things.

Funny that I've never eaten dandelion greens...is there a special way to prepare them?

anon bureaucrat said...

so... i want to hear some dandelion recipes...

peripateticpolarbear said...

I thought the "do you like butter" thing was silly too---you could just ASK! But I do love dandelions.

jo(e) said...

We never prepared them in any special way. We would just pick them before they flowered (they get bitter after that), wash them carefully, and eat them raw, as a salad, with oil and vinegar.

I know that some people sautee them in olive oil with garlic the way you would any other green.

The roots are edible too, although I don't think I've ever had them.

Lilian said...

Beautiful picture. I have pictures of oldest baby with dandelions and my parents have those pictures of me as a baby too.

Are you a vegan now? Just curious. I'm a ovo-lacto vegetarian, though sometimes I "break" the "diet" and eat fish, like today (my mom cooked had salmon for lunch - the main meal in Brazilian households).

jo(e) said...

Yes, I've been vegan since September of 2001. I'd been a vegetarian for years before that ....

My parents too have many photos of all of their cute children posted on hills of dandelions.

jayfish said...

i think dandelion greens still taste bitter! maybe i need to try that garlic and oil version... but i bet cooking would kill most of the nutrients.

Yankee T said...

I never understood why suburban lawn-daddies hated dandelions. I think they're so pretty. We played the butter game, too, but of course, we all loved butter. This is a great post and photo.

Scrivener said...

Hey, an actual childhood game that I did too!

Liesl said...

I popped over here from Phantom's place...

I love dandelions - they have such cheerful flowers, and are highly tenacious plants to boot.

I've never had dandelion wine, but I agree, dandelion greens make tasty salads.

Tabitha Grimalkin said...

I love dandelions! Thanks for this wonderful post.

Kathryn said...

Jo(e) your garden looks just like mine...it's always fun when things like that match on both sides of the pond.
We've never done dandelion wine,- and here, you do the "Do you like butter" thing with buttercups (so at least it kind of makes sense)...but what about dandelion clocks when they are ready to seed...the number of puffs it takes you to blow away all the fluff tells you the time. Of course it does!

joanna said...

When my father was a little boy in Roslindale, Mass., his grandmother used to take him out to the fields nearby, and he'd help her pick dandelion greens for salads.
I like dandelions and don't really care if my lawn has one or 101.

jackie said...

My daughters are loving dandelions this year, and pick great fat bouquets of them in every yard and playground they can find. I can't wait to tell them some of these reasons why dandelions are much more than "weeds".

halloweenlover said...

Jo(e), you're making me feel so guilty for detesting dandelions in my yard. I remember making necklaces with dandelions and with those tiny white flowers that also grow as weeds. Are those everywhere? Or just the West Coast?

And I never knew about dandelion wine and greens in salad! Yum!

Queen of West Procrastination said...

I read this post just after my husband and I were talking about how our across-the-road neighbour is outside every day, trying to kill every dandelion on his lawn. We were talking about how pointless and endless his task was, since his neighbours had dandelions, and I was thinking about how sad his task was, because I've always loved the happy yellow flowers.

comebacknikki said...

I love dandelions!

I've never had the dandelion wine or greens, but I did used to rub the flowers all over my face (including my lips) to make yellow make-up. I'm sure I tasted them at some point during my beauty rituals. :)

Anonymous said...

When I was a little girl I used to pick dandelions from the back yard and give them to my mom. Every single time she would get down one of the pretty vases and put the dandelion I brought her in it. She would act like it was the best present ever. I had forgotten how much that meant to me until I read this today. Thanks for a great reminder.

SuperB

zelda1 said...

I grew up poor and vegetarian because we couldn't afford meat. While Mama grew a garden, we still had to pick wild greens for salads or for cooked greens and dandelion and poke salet were two of her favorites. I remember filling a lard can full of wild garlic and pepper grass for her to cook with. Those early years are probly why my cholesterol level is so low today. Of course the fuzzy seeds of the dandelion were great for wishes and I remember one year, I must have been around six or seven, but I kept picking them and wishing things for my mom. I wished for her to get a new dress and shoes and a purse. It's funny how kids love to see their parents happy.

Rana said...

The dandelion is, above all else, persistent and reliable. It always comes back.

Yup. I'm facing a round of mowing today (sigh, say my sinuses), not so much because of the grass, but because the yard is now nothing but tall, naked, de-fluffed dandelion stems. I love the flowers, but these...

I may have to try that fried blossom thing -- sounds yummy!

Heidi the Hick said...

I love dandelions! I wish all the uptight people in my neighbourhood would stop hating them, and stop blasting them with poison. I love them as a symbol of happy defiance.

Friday Mom said...

Is there some kind of feminist critique of North American lawn care practices that helps identify how dandelions came to be despised, because I, too, have never understood why they were to be killed at all cost? I'm just wondering...

Piece of Work said...

We played the butter game, too--but with buttercups, not dandelions. What a great photo--it does inspire rolling around and gazing at clouds.

Rev Dr Mom said...

That was me, deleting my last comment. I just spent a couple of hours setting up a blog for my church and accidently commented under that name. I know I am really only semi-anonymous, but that would be completely blowing my cover.

What I said was this: Dandelions were the surest sign that spring had arrived when I lived in Vermont

cloudscome said...

I love Ray Bradbury's description of how they would go down in the cellar on a cold January day when everyone was coughing and sneezing, and break open a bottle of Dandelion wine and all take a dose. The taste of summer, and tonic for body and soul.

My son likes to pick a buttercup and give it to my mom when she brings the baby home after workdays. She said dig one out of your lawn and give it to me for my garden - they are a native plant. If those lovely dandelions weren't so persistent and determined they might be valued more I am afraid!