Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Dandelions...Demon or Delight? Wildflower or Weed? Something to Eat?

Dandelions grow in our yard like weeds.

Johnny and Richie say with pride, "We have a lot of dandelions," as though we must be doing something special to have a patch of weeds in our yard. Other neighbors have only figured out how to grow grass.

When the flowers transform into ghostlike white globes, I blow the seeds off the stem to make J.J. laugh. This creates more dandelions, I know, but, you see, I just can't get enough of this magical plant. That's why we let them grow wild and free in our yard.

No, not really. They grow in our yard because I'm lazy. I could say "busy" but I know that my Nana, who had ten children, weeded her yard by hand for years. Then again, she didn't get a subscription to People Magazine for her birthday. (Thanks, Mom!)

I've heard of a little something called weedkiller, but my children eat too much dirt from our yard to make that practical.

Laziness aside, I've always liked dandelions, with their sunny blooms, which my friends and I used to rub on our eyelids. If they turned yellow, we were boy-crazy. Thinking back, dandelions make everyone's eyelids turn yellow. What an unreliable experiment!

At the library this weekend, the boys and I discovered a new use for dandelions: food. In fact, that is how they got here. European settlers brought them to America as garden plants. They used the leaves for salads or cooked greens, the flowers for wine, and the ground roots for a hot coffee-like drink, which the book we checked out called "interesting." Translation: "disgusting."

I have to think dandelions were not as common in Europe as they are here. Because while I like weeds as much as the next person--more, probably--I wouldn't dig them up and take them with me to another country. Especially not the land of freedom. They don't need any encouraging.

We decided to make dandelion salad. Johnny, Richie and I harvested the tender leaves from the flowers. This served two purposes. It gave neighbors the illusion that I was weeding our yard and gave us something to do in the early evening since Justin was working late.

The boys washed the leaves for half an hour in the sink, appeasing my paranoia about pesticides, enjoying themselves, and using up the water we conserved by not watering our grass. I boiled a dozen eggs. The recipe, handed down from German settlers, called for eggs and weeds. Do those Germans know how to party in the kitchen, or what?

After all this, I saw the cautionary advice at the bottom of the recipe: Do not use weeds that have been sprayed with pesticides. Check. Do not use weeds that have already flowered, as they taste bitter. Oops. I poured poppyseed dressing over the salad, hoping for a bittersweet taste, and dished it onto our plates.

Richie, 3, looked at it, perplexed. "Is this something to eat?" he asked.

Then he asked for ketchup. I poured some on his plate, thinking, "That's a wierd thing to dip your dandelions in."

Totally ignoring the heap of salad, he pointed to the ketchup and said, "I need something to dip in there."

He went in the kitchen and got a baby spoon. He loves ketchup, eats it straight off his plate.

Johnny, 5, was more charitable. After tasting a small bite, he said, "Would this taste good with salt?"

The answer was no, unfortunately. But you know what would make the salad taste better? Not eating it. The leaves were so bitter that my coffee tastes sweet right now compared to the aftertaste of the dandelions after two teethbrushings and a good night's sleep.

After tasting the dandesalad, Johnny fixed a reprise of the saltines, butter and jelly for Richie and him. J.J. had already eaten baby ravioli. I ate the dandelions because, frankly, we worked so hard on them. So that just left Justin.

When he got home, he tasted the salad and said, "Ooh. That's funky."

I don't think he meant like "comadina."

He ate leftovers.

But I'm not giving up on these little powerhouses yet. They don't suck up all the nutrients in the yard for nothing. They are an extremely healthy food and free for the taking.

One recipe is for fried dandelion flowers. They're covered in egg yolk, rolled in cracker crumbs and fried in butter. Now we're talking. We just have to find the field where the wild crackers grow.

Note: Thank you for reading this blog. If you ever want to send the Web site address to someone, you can e-mail it by clicking on the envelope at the bottom of the entry next to the word "comments." I think that works. Sorry yesterday's entry didn't post until late. There were technical difficulties, I think. Tomorrow you can look forward to a story about the boiled Stinging Nettle I'm preparing for dinner tonight. Just kidding. We will eat a real meal tonight--especially to celebrate Justin's new job as a construction supervisor. Congrats to him!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

If it is the dandelions you are eating, I must ask what it is you are smoking?

Uncle Jamie

1:29 PM  
Anonymous Mom said...

So funny !!! I'm cracking up. Richie asking for ketchup and then something to dip in it was a riot!! It reminds me of when your dad was in charge and wanted to eat pancakes. He called Pat T. and said " Do you have any syrup we could borrow?" "yes". Do you ahve any eggs or oil?" "yes. What are you making ?" "Pancakes. Do you have any pancake mix?"
I also love the line about taking your weeds with you when you move -etc - clever.
Your welcome for "People" and congrats and good luck to Justin!

8:12 PM  

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