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Saturday, May 2, 2009

Happy Dandelion Day!!!

Why am I excited about Dandelion Day? Because, I LOVE dandelions!!! What? No one digs dandelions. Well, I do and I'm proud to announce it to the world. Although, I hope my new neighbors in Pennsylvania don't read this blog:) I don't think I've gotten off to a good start with some of them. You see, when I first bought the house two years ago, I wasn't able to make that five hour ride as often as I wanted to or perhaps, as often as I should have. I wish I would have remembered to bring the pictures down to New York with me because it's hard for me to describe what my lawn looked like the first year I didn't make it back up in time for Dandelion time. I never did get to see the lawn filled with those golden glows of sunshine. However, I did make it up in time to a lawn of white balloon puffs. It looked like it snowed in the middle of May. Oh my goodness, seed balloons were everywhere. Did you know one dandelion plant has an average of about 150 seeds per flower, and an average of 16 flowers per plant. You add it up, I'm horrible in math:) I'm thinking my lawn of puffballs were dispersed by the wind to every manicured lawn in the neighborhood.

I know for sure there were some complaints registered with the town because this last time up I went to the planning department to apply for a permit for a new shed and the man on the planning board said, "oh, you're the lady with the un-mowed lawn." "My lawn is mowed" I replied. "It wasn't a few years back" he said. "I know because I had to go down there and calm the neighbors down." Whew! that was before I moved in. The house had been vacant for two years and the relatives of the former owner were worse than me when it came to lawn maintenance. Needless to say, I try to make it up to PA as often as humanly possible as soon as the weather breaks. I'll probably find out how I'm doing next weekend as the neighborhood is having a town wide yard sale and I have cordially be invited. I must say, I find this all rather amusing. The house in PA is in a pretty rural area (rural to me anyway) I mean there are vegetable farms, dairy farms and Amish buggies all around me. Yes, I live on a main rural road but it seems to me the dandelions were probably there first.

The dandelion puffs her balls,
    Free spinsters of the air,
Who scorn to wait for beetle calls
    Or bees to find them fair;
But breaking through the painted walls
    Their sisters tamely bear,
Fly off in dancing down, which falls
    And sprouts up everywhere.

Oh the lowly dandelion, why does it get so abused? Perhaps, it needs to go by one of its alternative names. Irish Daisy is nice. What about, Lion's Tooth? That may keep the lawnmowers away; Growl! (the edges of the leaves have teeth that are supposed to resemble those of a lion, hence, its name Leontodon meaning lion's tooth.) Perhaps, a global name, lovingly applied will raise it to grandeur. Puffball:) Do you know your Dandelion folklore? (To blow the seeds off the dandelion is to carry one's thoughts to a loved one:) Look at this video. I found on You Tube. I mean really, what's not to love about Dandelions?

Time Lapse Opening of a Dandelion
It is said that if you can blow all the seeds off with one blow, then you are loved with a passionate love. If some seeds remain, then your lover has reservations about the relationship. If a lot of the seeds still remain on the globe, then you are not loved at all, or very little...Other folk names, like face-clock and tell-time refer to the custom of telling the time by blowing the white seed (the number of blows required to rid the clock of its seeds is supposed to be dependent on the time of day.) or to the plant's more authentic diuretic qualities, preserved in such names as piss-a-bed and the French pissenlit.

Dandelion Virtues

In the Language of Flowers the dandelion represented The Rustic Oracle in 1852. I have an edition of The Rural Wreath; or Life Among The Flowers edited by Laura Greenwood and published in 1855. In that book, the dandelion is described as the flower of Coquetry. (flirtation and frolic) The book I have is as fragile as its contents but, perhaps, I will get to share it with you next year on Dandelion Day.

The Dandelion is the most common of flowers. It is found in the four quarters of the globe, near the pole as beneath the equator, on the margin of rivers and streams as well as on sterile rocks. It serves the shepherd instead of a clock, while its feathery tufts are hig barometer, predicting calm or storm. The globes formed by the seeds of the Dandelion are used for other purposes. If you are separated from the object of your love, pluck one of those feathery spheres, charge each of the little feathers with a tender thought; turn toward the spot where the loved one dwells; blow, and the aerial travellers will faithfully convey your secret message to his or her feet. If you wish to know if that dear one is thinking of you, blow again; and if a single aigrette is left upon the stalk, it is a proof that you are not forgotten.

Have you really ever considered the virtues of a dandelion? I know it's sometimes difficult. All we ever hear about dandelions is how annoying they are and what a nuisance they've become. I sometimes think people just think it's "cool" to plot against them. I've been straying off the path of my regular blog visits to some other food blogs that I don't normally visit. (I look for blogs to add to my search engine when I only have a few minutes online. I have a feeling that will be slowing down now that I have joined the twitter community) Anyway, everywhere I go the anticipation of spring beckons with hope of this year's future crops. Even the April issue of Gourmet Magazine confessed to "forcing spring a bit" with their lovely cover filled Strawberry Mascarpone Tart. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm quite aware of the scars of a severe winter in more ways than one but, dandelions are everywhere, glistening for the picking. You know, there's a farmer's saying that goes something like this; When dandelions bloom late, expect a dry summer. I don't know about your neck of the woods but here in New York and in Pennsylvania, summer isn't looking too dry if the farmer's lore is right.

Dandelion Recipes

The Dandelion was intentionally brought to the "New World" from Europe for its food and medicinal value. Although dandelions are classified as a bitter herb, it has been used as a vegetable since ancient times. Young dandelion leaves, which can be eaten as a salad, contain twice as much calcium as spinach, more vitamin A & E than broccoli and they contain high quantities of iron, riboflavin, and lecithin. Dandelions improve the appetite, stimulate the immune system, the stomach, liver and gall bladder. Dandelions are used to treat kidney and liver disorders. Externally the white milky juice found in the entire plant is said to have medicinal properties. Dandelion "milk" is used to treat skin disorders, including warts, eczema and as a repellent for mosquitos.

Dandelions have been used as a high nutrient food, applied in cases of dyspepsia, as a mild laxative, to increase appetite and promote digestion. The latex is excellent for getting rid of warts (apply 3 times daily for seven days)...Dandelion was used by Arabian physicians in the 10th-11th centuries. It was mentioned in Welsh herbals in the 13th century. It is prominent in Gerard`s Herbal (1597) appearing throughout herbals from the 16th to 18th centuries. Eclectics of the 1800`s and the early 1900`s also listed Dandelion as a major herb. This genus has been listed in Chinese medicine since the Tang Materia Medica (659 AD). It has had a significant history of use in Ayurvedic medicine also. Dandelion appears in the ethnobotanical literature of over a dozen North American Indian tribes, even as far afield as the Aleuts of Alaska. Its application is very broad but dermatological, analgesic and gastrointestinal problems seem to be prominent uses. source
Gypsy Wart Recipe: Gather dandelions, including the flower heads stems, and leaves, squeeze them, and apply their milky juice to the wart or corn. Leave it there to dry. Application should be made 2 or 3 days in a row. Herbs and Things Jeanne Rose's Herbal pg. 208

Dandelion petals are also edible. They are used in the making of Dandelion Wine and can be used as an edible garnish. Dandelion Tea is quite refreshing and healthy too! Have you ever experience Dandelion Coffee? I'm a huge fan of chicory coffee. Dandelion coffee has a deep robust flavor much like chicory coffee. You just take the dandelion root, clean it off real good, don't peel it, roast it until it is a deep colored brown and grind it up and use like coffee. I've heard it's best to harvest the root in the autumn for in the spring the roots are almost flavorless. How inexpensive can that be? Of course, you must make sure you are using the purest of the harvest. No pesticide laden lawns, golf courses or high traffic areas. I've heard of a commercial variety of Dandelion Coffee and with a quick search online, not only did I find the developer's blog, I also found his commercial site which includes recipes. Let me know if you try it. For now, I'll continue to process my own.

Dandelion is generally regarded as safe, but some people report allergic or asthmatic reaction to this herb. Dandelion is a member of the Asteraceae/Compositae family, and people that are allergic to chamomile, chrysanthemums, yarrow, feverfew, ragweed, sunflower, daisies, or other members of the Asteraceae family, may be allergic to dandelion as well. Dandelion is not recommended for patients with liver or gallbladder disease because of the traditional belief that dandelion stimulates bile secretion, although there are no studies of animals or humans that support this belief. source
Dandelion Tea: Pour a pint of boiling water on to an ounce of mature dandelion leaves, or sliced root, and infuse for a quarter of an hour. Drink at intervals during the day. Culinary & Salad Herbs Eleanor Sinclair Rohde; Dover Books 1972

It's best to harvest dandelion greens before the flowers appear. If not, they may be tough and bitter. Simply cooked, quickly like spinach and harvested fresh, they are quite appetizing. Tender dandelion leaves are cut from the roots, washed well in cold water and then boiled. Bring a large pot of water to a full boil and by the handful gently add the greens. They should not be cooked too long, just until wilted (2 or 3 minutes.) It's a good idea to change the water once or twice to reduce bitterness. Drain and run cold water over to stop the cooking. Squeeze as much moisture out as possible especially if you are going to freeze them as they freeze surprisingly well much like Swiss Chard or Spinach. If serving immediately, use them in your favorite recipe, sauteed with garlic in oil is one of my favorite ways but, you can also use the mixture the same way you would use spinach, mustard greens or swiss chard. Some serve dandelion greens with butter and vinegar. Others prefer to cook the dandelion leaves with a little salt pork, or bacon, and serve them with sour cream dressing. Dandelion leaves can be blanched and used raw as a salad. Blanching is said to improve the flavor. Usually the young leaves and unopened buds are eaten raw in salads, while older leaves are cooked. Dandelion salad is very popular in France and Switzerland. The French also make creme de pissenlits which is actually Cream of Dandelion Soup and in Switzerland, Dandelion Syrup is served over pancakes or waffles. Both are absolutely delicious! I have gathered a few recipes for you to experiment with while you are waiting for the signs of spring. Perhaps, once again, the greens are right outside your door.

The recipe below is from a book titled Lithuanian Customs and Other Ethnic Cookery by The Knights of Lithuanian Anthracite Council. (1997) I had it previously posted on my AOL website back in the late 1990s.

Lithuanian Dandelion Wine
3 quarts Dandelions
2 1/4 lbs. sugar
2 lemons
1 orange
3/4 lb. raisins
1 tsp. grape tannin
1 gal. water
yeast and nutrient
The above recipe for Dandelion Wine includes very explicit instructions. It states that the flowers must be gathered fresh on St. George's Day April, 23. St. George is the Patron Saint of England the guardian of animals and the Patron Saint of scouting. They must be picked off the stalk and put into a large bowl. One does not need to pick off the petals; use the whole heads. Bring the water to the boil, pour over the dandelions, and leave for 2 days, stirring each day. Keep the bowl closely covered. On the third day, turn all into a boiler, add the sugar and the rinds only of lemons and orange. Boil for 1 hour. Return to the crock, and add the juice and pulp of the lemons and orange. Allow to stand until cool, then add wine yeast and tannin, and yeast nutrient, since this is a liquor likely to be deficient in desirable elements. Let it remain closely covered for 3 days in a warm place, then strain into fermenting bottles and divide the raisins equally amongst them. Fit trap. Leave until fermentation ceases and rack when wine clears.

Dandelions are food for many insects and wild animals. Bees love dandelions so please leave some for them when harvesting. As a matter of fact, a quick poultice can be made from the leaves and stems of the dandelion plant and applied to a bee sting. It is said this remedy will ease the discomfort of the sting. Sometimes called Peasant's Clock, the dandelion flower opens early in the morning usually between 5 or 6 a.m. They close each evening between 8 and 10 p.m. They are sensitive to weather and will close like an umbrella when a storms a brewing.

The nectar or pollen of the flowers primarily attracts long-tongued bees, short-tongued bees, and bee flies. Among the bees, are such visitors as bumblebees, honeybees, Mason bees, Halictid bees, and Andrenid bees. The foliage of Dandelion is eaten by many kinds of insects, including the caterpillars of several species of moths. Most of these moths are polyphagous, as their caterpillars will feed on a variety of low-growing plants. In the Eastern states and the Midwest, only the Goldfinch and the English Sparrow eat the seeds to any significant extent. While the foliage is somewhat bitter, it is eaten occasionally by various mammalian herbivores, including livestock, rabbits, groundhogs, and deer. source
Dandelions can be beneficial to a garden ecosystem as well as to human health. Dandelions attract beneficial ladybugs and provide early spring pollen for their food. In a study done at the University of Wisconsin, experimental plots with dandelions had more ladybugs than dandelion free plots, and fewer pest aphids, a favorite food of the ladybugs. Dandelions long roots aerate the soil and enable the plant to accumulate minerals, which are added to the soil when the plant dies.

Some of the proven ways for Dealing with Dandelions may be easier than you think. As an alternative to pesticides, you can prevent them from taking over your lawn (if you or your neighbors insist) by keeping your lawn healthy, physically pulling them out (why not have a dandelion harvesting party:) or by using the least toxic control such as corn gluten or vinegar.

One final note, please be sure to check all of your own resources before using any recipes or remedies you are not sure of. I am here to celebrate Dandelion Day, not to give advice. I know I'm beginning to sound a bit repetitive but I don't want anyone to forget the Free Cook Book Give-Away I will be announcing on May 4th. See ya then...

P.S. The top image was harvested from The National Park Service.

FYI: Did you see Janet's post for National Truffle Day which also happens to be today. I love truffles just as much as I dig dandelions!

Resources
1. Wild About Dandelions
2. Dandelion Jelly
3. How to Have Fun with Dandelions
4. It’s not a weed – it’s medicine!
5. Dandelion Recipes
6. Eggs Rockefeller with Dandelion Greens and Hollandaise
7. Red Potato and Sautéed Greens Salad (A Straight from the Farm Original)
8. A message Board of Dandelion Recipes (I had to include this link since the above dandelion wine recipe is included:) I guess someone found it useful:)
9. Make a Rubber Band from a Dandelion
10. Remembering Dandelion Day

11 comments:

  1. you can actually make wine out of the dandelion?! coolness! :D

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  2. I used to say I was going to buy a packet of dandelion seeds, throw away the seeds, and put the pack on a stick in my lawn so people would think I WANTED the dandelions there. Now I have much less grass so I can sometimes keep up by digging.... Mae

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  3. even i can't believe wine can be made from Dandelion. lots of info on this green leafy veg.

    thanks for visiting my blog! can you please give the link of give away post? should i drop a comment?

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  4. I've never made anything with dandelions...the wine sounds good.

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  5. yes indeed acey, you can. they are also "cool" to munch on...

    Oh that's funny...I just can't seem to figure out the difference between dandelions and say sunflowers, for instance. Why yes to Sunflowers and no to Dandelions? I'm thinking about actually planting a cultivated dandelion garden. The neighbors will LOVE it! Not...

    Dandelion wine has been made for ages Mahimaa. I hear it's quite refreshing and not bad for your health. It may just be me. I adore most wines:) The give-away post will be up on the 4th right on this blog. I hope you have time to stop back for the details.

    It sure does Pam, however, I'm yet to find a wine I don't like:)

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  6. dandelion wine? Very interesting. My herbalist has prescribed dandelion for me before for digestive problems :)

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  7. Love dandeloin greens. Havent had the wine or tea yet.

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  8. Hi Veron,
    Thanks for dropping by. The tea works wonders for digestive problems. Popping over by you to take a look at that cake. I was there yesterday but had to leave in a rush...

    Hi Glamah
    Try the tea then the wine, if you try the wine first you may never try the tea:) Oh that reminds me. I have to get that recipe for Hibiscus Tea...

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  9. Mmm. Wilted dandelion salad with bacon dressing and red onions.

    Admittedly where I live one has to worry about the dandelions being pre-seasoned by wandering dogs . . .

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  10. In PA, it's wandering cows, Karen:)

    Now, I'm wanting wilted dandelion salad. However, they're getting the tennis courts ready around here (New York) and who knows what they've sprayed...To the grocer I go...

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  11. Sorry but we had dandelions and ate them for thousands of years before white people came here. But, I do remember my Lithuanian Mother in law loved dandelions and I know my indigenous ancestors ate them too.

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Through this wide opened gate,
none came too early,
none returned too late.

Thanks for dropping in...Louise

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