June 28, 2017

Dandelion Greens

Illustration by George Danby

Illustration by George Danby

• By John F. Chisholm •

We had fresh dandelions for dinner last night.  They’re one of the perks of spring.

I simply adore dandelion greens.

I have a confession to make, however.  It wasn’t always this way.  When I was kid, I hated them.  And parsnips and turnips, too.  My mother made me eat them somehow.  That fact alone would fill me with awe for the woman.  But she did it and managed to put up with me, too.  Looking back, I am not sure how she managed.  I’m sure that I was a difficult child.  But I gagged and swallowed.  Somehow.

My grandfather picked them for her.  There was a time when I was positive that it pained her to share them with me.  Particularly since I made those meals so unpleasant.  But now I gather them for my family.  I’ve learned a thing or two about them in the process.  First, it’s important to gather them while they’re budded but before they bloom.  Otherwise they’re bitter.  Anyone who’s ever remarked at how quickly dandelions grow is aware of how narrow that window truly is.  This makes dandelions an early spring crop, before even fiddleheads.

Second, don’t overcook them.  Otherwise, like spinach or beet greens, the leaves blanche and lose their flavor.

I rinse the dandelions in cold water and cut off the roots before steaming the greens.  Once done, I drain them thoroughly.  Depending on how many I’ve gathered, I add proportional amounts of butter, olive oil, pepper, thyme and parmesan cheese.  My wife likes a bit of vinegar with them, too.

We eat until we’re too full to take another bite.  Regardless, there are always leftover greens for the next night, too.  Despite our appetites, our lawn and fields are choked with dandelions every summer.  Obviously we don’t eat enough.  But that’s okay.  I’d hate to imagine a world without dandelions.  I eat them every April and admire them every June.  They punctuate green fields with their bright yellow blooms.

While I savor the first batch each spring, I always look back, remembering how my mother made me eat them.  I can’t help but wonder if her parents made her eat them as a child, too.  It’s tough to imagine she liked them when she was little.  Maybe she did.  She was a singular woman.

All this leads to another confession.

I made my children eat them, too.

Perhaps ― just maybe ― while passing along a family tradition, I finally figured out how my mother endured me as a boy.

Incredibly, the memories of those dinners actually make me smile.  Because through the ruckus, distaste mirrored in Kim’s face and nausea reflecting from Nathan’s grimace, I could see my grandchildren eating dandelions.

They’re still not here but I know what their reactions will be.  Never mind.

They’ll end up loving them later.

It makes me laugh.

I simply adore dandelion greens.