By Beth Schreibman Gehring Chairman of Education- Western Reserve Herb Society
I have always felt such an affinity for Dandelions. Where many see lowly weeds, I see necklaces, good wishes and fresh salad greens! When I was a child playing in my fathers’ gardens, one of the happiest signs of spring were when those bright golden, pollen laden blooms would appear all over our yard as if by magic! I couldn’t wait to get outside and play with them! That lovely golden pollen always tickled my nose and made me sneeze, but I loved it anyway! We all know that the dandelion provides the first and last food for our beloved honeybees and for that reason alone they should be worshipped.
As a child, “Who put them there?” was always my question , because I knew that my father hadn’t planted them. They seemed so magical. I loved them…so much abundance and so much joy to be found in those smiling yellow faces. I could never understand why he’d get so upset at my favorite pastime, which was to blow the seeds everywhere that I could, flower after flower. My friends and I made long necklaces and head dresses and pretended that we were fairy queens! I cried every time the gardeners mowed them down. By the time I was 10 I finally convinced my father to just let them be. That spring the dandelions returned with a vengeance as if to say….” Ha…you thought we were gone but we’ve been here for the whole time just waiting!”. I was beside myself with joy the first time that I saw them reappear. Dandelions have an absolutely unabashed generosity about them! Pick only one and the next day three will magically appear it its place. I still don’t know how they do that and that’s why I absolutely love them!
Dandelion or as the French call it Dent de Lion or pissenlit (the English call it Piss in Bed!) is one powerhouse of a springtime tonic. I love to use the leaves in salad, their bitterness is delightful on the tongue when countered by a salty dressing of olive oil, onion, egg and a bit of crispy bacon. Dandelions are known to have strong diuretic qualities. When eaten as part of a meal they are thought to be unsurpassed for their cleansing and laxative qualities. In Iran, a wonderful green dip made of braised Dandelion leaves, onions and pine nuts dressed with lemon juice , olive oil and lemon zest is delicious when eaten with fresh yogurt and warmed pita bread. Dandelion leaves eaten regularly are a marvelous tonic for the digestion and I love to make a simple wine of infused Dandelion leaves and flowers.
Dandelion infused wine is a delicious and very pretty aperitif. Making it is simple. Just take a bottle of really good Riesling or viognier.
Open it and decant it into a large glass jar filled with several cups of freshly washed Dandelion flowers. I also add a cup of fresh Lemon Balm and Lemon Verbena leaves! Add a cup of raw honey, shake well and let the whole thing infuse in a cool place for about a week. Strain and decant the wine into a pretty decanter and chill it for another day or two. Serve this lovely springtime digestif in little wine glasses before dinner with wheat crackers and a crock of fromage blanc to which you’ve added a bit of lemon rind and dressed with just a touch of honey and salt for the perfect springtime aperitif!
This spring as the lively yellow flowers begin to grace your lawns please remember that Dandelions could be your new best friend! They are an acquired taste to be sure, but once you make their acquaintance you’ll never want to be without them!