After the shortest winter ever, I find myself looking out to a landscape without snow. I’m torn between the sadness of losing the ice from the lake too soon, the fear that there will be a freak snowstorm in May, the hope for a gentle transition into summer, and the desire for fresh greens from the garden, forest and lawn.
I’m not talking about cultivated plants here. I am very much looking forward to the great green things that grow wild, long before the last frost allows the tender cultivars to be tucked into the beds.
As April days lengthen and warm, the perennial dandelion will be among the first to emerge in the garden and lawn. I’m keeping a keen eye out for them, in my own yard as well as everywhere else I go.
For years I have known that the entire dandelion plant is edible. In the early years, I limited my harvest to the long pointy leaves. I didn’t like them much, so I’d toss just a few of them into a salad because I knew they were “good” for me. Spring tonic, don’t ya know.
After a decade or so, I figured I would develop a taste for them. And I sort of did. Especially when I was able to get some of the youngest leaves that weren’t too bitter. Toss them with balsamic vinegar and a little olive oil and sea salt, let them marinate for a while, and they were quite good.
We also picked the flowers when they were very abundant, and Allan made some dandelion wine. It is sometimes very good, and beautifully golden in colour.
As April days lengthen and warm, the perennial dandelion will be among the first to emerge in the garden and lawn.
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A few years ago, I was visiting our local farmer and noticed the tender green leaves emerging from a deep straw mulch in the garlic patch. “Weeding” the garlic, I pulled out a few dozen plants with eight-inch long leaves and 12 inch long taproots.
When I got home, I discovered what Euell Gibbons (Stalking the Wild Asparagus) had been trying to tell me for years. The “crown” of the dandelion is the most delicious part of all! Tucked in at the junction of the leaves and the root lies the embryonic flower buds. I cleaned them well, and sautéed them with a little olive oil and garlic. Amazing! The flavour is similar to artichoke hearts.
The leaves went into the salad. The taproots were scrubbed and boiled, then served with butter and sea salt. Good yes, and good for the ol’ spring tonic.
As I became more familiar with the dandelion crowns, I started nibbling on them right in the garden and discovered that they are also delicious raw. Who cares if they are good for my aging body?
So now I anxiously await these early spring greens. And my local farmer will be happy to see me when I go there in early May to weed his garden.
Viki Mather lives beside a lake near Greater Sudbury.
Posted by Heather Green-Oliver