As a six-year-old, I heard God sprinkled dandelions on lawns like manna. Sometimes He turned them to gold during the night. The financial possibilities made it worth a try.
The gold coin story did not pan out, but I still welcomed dandelions. Softer than my baby brother’s hair, they dotted the gray-brown Indiana landscape, reminding me better than any catechism that God loves color. I showered my mother with bouquets. She never turned them down.
One evening Mama surprised my siblings and me. We would pick dandelions for supper! I did not realize they were good to eat. Or that our old refrigerator was empty. Mama acted as if we were going on a picnic.
“These look good.” She bent and nipped off leaves.
Grown-ups rarely made sense. “Aren’t we going to eat the flowers?”
“No. Some people use them to make wine, but we’re eating just the greens.”
“Can’t we make wine?”
Mama’s eyebrows rose. “Probably not a good idea.”
My father’s congregation might not take kindly to a bootleg wine-making operation in the church basement.
My seven-year-old brother grabbed the big greens first.
“Thank you.” Mama shook dirt from our offerings. “But little ones are best.”
Ha! My spindly greens topped his!
I asked Mama, “What do cooked dandelions taste like?”
I’d never eaten spinach. But on TV, Popeye’s cans of spinach helped him clobber the bad guys!
Maybe dandelions possessed the same magic. I insisted on a big bowl for supper. Muscles would pop out on my skinny arms. I would teach Kevin, the mouthy kid across the alley, some manners!
I took my first bite.
Maybe we should have made wine.
Though I gulped several spoonfuls, I didn’t hear Popeye’s happy music. My arms still looked like plucked chicken wings. Maybe if the dandelions had come from a can instead of the churchyard, the spell might have worked.
Decades later, dandelion greens, no longer a dubious alternative to going hungry, are chopped, pickled and curried in hundreds of international recipes.
I take home the fresh, green pile I have gathered. When I find the right recipe, I will dine on four-star fare for lunch. My personal skeptic insists I will be eating weeds at my kitchen table stacked high with bills. Ignoring her, I search the Internet for recipes.
Who knows? Chopped in my repent-after-the-holidays salad, dandelions might make me as skinny as Olive Oyl.
When the first dandelion of the year pops up in your yard, what childhood memory pops into your mind? And do you have a favorite dandelion recipe?