"Mom, put your chin up," instructed my daughter Mariah, who was decked out with a crown of dandelions. I complied. She promptly put a blossom under my chin to test my love of butter.
A cheery and abundant display of dandelions were present in the yard of the Ard and Harriet Godfrey House, site of the annual Dandelion Days celebration we were attending. No herbicides used here, where the ubiquitous flower is heralded as one of Harriet's favorites.
Afterall, she has the dubious distinction of being "credited" with introducing dandelions to Minneapolis. Apparently, she missed the petite yellow blooms from her home back East and ordered some seeds shipped out. And we know the "rest of the story".
In addition to its association with dandelions, the Godfrey house, built in 1849, is the oldest frame house in the Twin Cities. It was the family residence for the Maine millwright, who helped build the first dam and sawmills to put the waterpower of the St. Anthony Falls to use.
Historical tour guides greet you at the entrance to the home, not only to tell you about life along the Mississippi River in the mid-1800s, but to share dandelion recipes. Clearly, the flower not only brought a bit of color to Harriet's yard, which was located on the muddy streets of the Mississippi River shoreline, but also provided fresh greens for the table and wine to drink.
Speaking of dandelion recipes, I have a stockpile of my own. I have instuctions for making dandelion coffee, soup with mini meatballs, omelets and scrambled dandelions, as well as cooked dandelion roots. All are found in Alma Christensen's "For Soul and Kitchen Wild Food Cookbook".
In Billy Joe Tatum's "Wild Foods Field Guide and Cookbook" there are additional recipes for broth, bud omelets and fried fritters and flowers.
When I was a little girl, Baba, the grandma with whom I lived, would pick small tender dandelion leaves for "salata"(salad). After soaking the greens in cold salted water overnight, she'd rinse and drain the wilted leaves, add vinegar, oil, salt, pepper, garlic (and sometimes a little onion) to make a delicious tossed salad.
For those of you who are leary, keep in mind dandelion greens are an excellent source of vitamin A, plus contain vitamins B, C and E, riboflavin and thiamin. In addition, greens contain potassium, calcium and have more than three times as much iron as spinach.
The blossoms may also be pickled or made into jelly. In addition, jam can be made from the stems of the plant. And did you know dandelion wine made from the yellow petals is available commercially?
I'm picking my mother a present.
How perfectly glad she will be
To see all the beautiful flowers
She gets on her birthday from me.
- M. Chute
For over a century Adrian R. Wells, current owner of his old family-founded cannery business, has grown rows of dandelions by the acre. His rural Maine factory has canned and pickled dandelion and fiddlehead greens since 1897. Today, cases of greens are shipped across the nation to specialty stores and restaurants as gourmet fare.
Culinary aspects aside, dandelions have also been used for medicinal purposes. Native Americans made tea from the roots to relieve heartburn and cramps. Early colonists cooked the leaves to make an effective tonic against distemper. Folk remedies using dandelions for ailments from gout to warts are documented. In fact, the common dandelion, known scientifically as Taraxacum officinalis, is still listed in the National Formulary as a recognized medicinal source.
Still not convinced about the value of the delightful dandelion? Who does not remember childhood days of gathering little bouquets of bright yellow flowers, making braided garlands or rubbing dandelions under someone's chin to see if they liked butter? Or when the flowers turned to balls of white seeds, blowing them to the wind and making a wish with every puff?
For me, my fondest thoughts of dandelions center around my daughter when she was six years old. Before I saw my rosy-cheeked Mariah, her cheery voice sounded, "Mom, mom--I've got something for you," as she rushed into my office. Proudly she thrusted towards my face a collection of short-stemmed dandelions clutched tightly in her hand.
I praised her profusely and thanked her for her thoughtfulness. Distracted from my work, I located a delicate miniature vase, filled it with warm water and took the bouquet she so glowingly offered.
That's reason enough for me to smile at the dandelions blooming so profusely in our lawn.
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