Ah dandelion, a picture of more civilized times

Alan Elliott
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The dandelions appeared earlier in the garden, before I spotted them on the lawn. Clearing some of them out several weeks ago I saw in one, nestled within those dark green leaves dangling like crab legs, some paler growth and a button of a bud. I cleaned those fine shoots up and popped them in my mouth.
My, it was good. I didn't have time to hunt up a full-fledged salad for lunch, though, so that sufficed as my taste of dandelion greens for the year.
I noticed with some mirth that the lovely village of Wallace held a Dandelion Festival not long ago. What a great idea, to celebrate this beautiful, plenteous herb rather than curse it.
Do you ever wonder where that came from? Getting all bent out of shape over a plant that grows in our lawns and makes a pretty yellow flower? As many have observed, it's the first bouquet children give to their mothers. Well I guess we know where it came from. Somebody's gotten rich over the years convincing us to buy crap to spread around in an attempt to put off nature's course.
I'm with Wallace on this one. When you get over the indoctrination planted in us by Big Chemical, it's a darn nice flower -- with lots of uses.
There's the aforementioned salad supply. But you need to get them early, something that often eludes me in getting my spring tonic of dandelion. I'll mention something my Mom does. She'll find a spot where they're thick and put a flower pot or something over to blanche the leaves and cut the bitterness. In the old days it was common to do the same by covering them with a plank.
I also heard on some recent radio commentary that it's great lightly stir-fried.
Of course there's the wine angle too -- and I don't doubt there are a lot of folks out there with a dandelion wine story. In my case, I recall my parents handing me a recipe when I was 14 or 15 and putting me in charge of the project. It wasn't to encourage me toward strong drink, but more along the lines of Tom Sawyer getting his friends to whitewash the fence for him.
Actually, it was an interesting if somewhat labour-intensive endeavour. As for the finished product, it wasn't all that good. I was allowed to have the occasional taste (I know, what were they thinking?) but didn't take advantage of it often.
There is such a thing as really good dandelion wine, though, and I recall one made years later by Mom. It had a slightly nutty, sweet flavour, a bit like sherry.
Another application: I remember as a kid, we'd pick the long stems, discarding the flower, and bend them into an O shape. Stick the narrower, upper end of the tube into the larger, lower end to form a ringlet. Thus, we would make dandelion-stem chains. We'd wear them around our necks, whip each other with them.... Remember, this was before the days of computers and Nintendo. Wii was actually spelled 'whee,' as in, 'what fun.' It was quite entertaining for its time.
As for those instances when you just want them gone, I've been experimenting. You know how you can dig down, try to get out that long tap root? Leave a tip of it behind, and you always do, two sprouts will return. A neighbour once told me his method. He carries a pocket knife and cuts the plant off just below the surface. "As long as you get a bit of the root," he said. He finds they seldom come back.
I know it sounds too good to be true. Maybe without the plant to support it, the root decays. I've been trying it, in the garden and flowerbeds. The trouble is, it's tough to distinguish specific dandelions. Cut one out and unless you mark the spot you just don't know for sure. That's got to be my next step.
But it's fun, almost as fun as playing with them, a bit of the Zen art of dandelion lore.

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