One of my very first attempts to be a gardener came when I was about four years old, when Daddy was stationed at Lackland Air Force base in San Antonio, Texas. Although I didn’t know it at the time, he was doing “Cold War” secret stuff.
What I did know was that I missed home; especially Mammaw and Pappaw, and that San Antonio was very, very hot, very, very dry, and very, very, very dusty.
There was also very, very little green…but in my very own backyard, I found a dandelion! You would have thought that I’d found a rare orchid, I was so excited! I knew that if I made a wish and blew aaaaaallll the seeds off at once, my wish would come true.
Now, Daddy didn’t mow the grass (what little there was) very often, but I didn’t want to take any chances with my precious dandelion. I found an old, yellow, chewed-up dog dish in the alley and transplanted the dandelion into it. I watered it carefully every day…and it lived (at least for a while).
No one told me that dandelions had deep tap roots and were hard to dig up. No one ever told me that dandelions were weeds. All I knew was this beautiful yellow flower reminded me of home, where there were countless dandelions in every lawn – and just as many wishes to be made and to come true.
Even today, as a “grown-up”, I don’t’ understand why people dislike dandelions. It’s true, they aren’t native. It’s true they disturb the perfect green monoculture of grass for which so many people strive. But, they were brought over purposefully by the early settlers as potherbs. Quite happy in the New World, they and the settlers spread out over the continent.
Every part of this plant is edible. In the early spring, the new leaves can be collected to make a “mess o’ greens” or added to a soup or stew. You need to pick the leaves before they start to bloom, otherwise the leaves will be bitter.
You can pick the flowers to make dandelion wine. Or, dip the flowers in batter and deep fry them. I’m told they taste something like oysters. The roots can be dug up, dried and ground to use as a coffee or tea substitute. Modern herbalists use dandelions as a physical de-tox. (All this, of course, from dandelions not subjected to insecticides, herbicides or growing close to heavy traffic.)
Of course, there’s always waiting for the seed head to form, then blowing aaaaaallll the seeds away at once…so your wish will come true.
My wish? I wish I still believed in wishes.
Stay Green, dear friends.