The lawn daisies are beginning to appear in our lawns.
You ask: “What are lawn daisies?” You know them as fine and dandy dandelions!
Some folks regard them as weeds in our lawns and flower beds. Other savor them for culinary and health purposes.
The first mention of dandelions as medicine dates to medieval Persian writings. From its humble beginnings, the dandelion has gone on to become one of the world’s most successful plants. A single plant can produce 5,000 seeds — all of which are engineered to take flight on the slightest breeze.
Traditional cultures recognized the dandelion as useful and took seeds with them on their travels.
Early American settlers used all parts of the plants, thinking it could stimulate digestion, purify blood, cure scurvy, combat rheumatism and repel kidney stones. The settlers used the roots, leaves and flowers in teas, tinctures, soups, salads, stews and wines, not just for healthy effects but for culinary benefits also.
For culinary uses, do not collect the dandelions in your lawn. Most lawns, at one time or another, have been treated with chemicals. Of course, we do not want to ingest anything chemically treated. Choose dandelions from a location that gets no chemicals or plant seeds in a patch in your garden that would be used exclusively for eating.
The best time to collect roots is during the earliest part of spring. Scrub the roots and peel them before using. For dandelion greens, gather in early spring before the plant blooms — this is when the leaves are most flavorful. They will be bitter as they age. Gather the blossoms in late spring when most full and plentiful.
Domesticated dandelion greens are generally milder than wild ones and are sold seasonally in supermarkets, ethnic grocery stores, health food stores and farmers markets.
I found dandelion greens offered in the Territorial Seed Company catalog and in John Scheepers Kitchen Garden Seed catalog. Both offer good descriptions of the seeds they offer. Johnny’s Selected Seeds, another catalog, featured three different Italian dandelion seed offerings.
You may already have tasted dandelion greens in the last tossed salad you ordered! More and more high-end, trendy restaurants are incorporating dandelion greens on their healthy food menus.
Try steaming dandelion greens five to 10 minutes and add butter, salt and pepper. Serve on toasted multi-grain bread topped with a fried egg. Or bake a dandelion quiche by substituting the greens for the spinach or broccoli.
The yellow flower heads may be dipped in a beaten egg and dusted with flour and then deep fried to make a tasty fritter.
The roots may be boiled and eaten as you would a parsnip. Or, if you would like a new kind of tea, dig up a large dandelion plant, wash the root, chop it into small pieces, boil it and let it steep for an hour. Strain, serve with honey and enjoy while hot. I have, on occasion, found dandelion jelly at farmers markets or in specialty stores. It’s very good on crackers.
To pass the time during this virus crisis, perhaps a dandelion project with kids or grandkids would be a fun thing to do and create a memory while experimenting doing something out of the ordinary.