April Promises

April PromisesAfter the shortest winter ever, I find myself looking out at a landscape without snow. I’m torn between the sadness of losing the ice from the lake too soon, the fear that there will be a freak snowstorm in May, the hope for a gentle transition into summer, and the desire for fresh greens from the garden, forest, and lawn.

I’m not talking about cultivated plants here. I am very much looking forward to the great green things that grow wild, long before the last frost allows the tender cultivars to emerge from their beds.

As April days lengthen and warm, the perennial dandelion will be among the first to emerge in the garden and lawn. I’m keeping a keen eye out for them in my own yard, as well as everywhere else I go.

For years I have known that the entire dandelion plant is edible. In the early years, I limited my harvest to the long pointy leaves. I didn’t like them much, so I’d toss just a few of them into a salad because I knew they were ‘good’ for me. Spring tonic, don’t ya know.

After a decade or so, I figured I would develop a taste for them. And I sort of did. Especially when I was able to get some of the youngest leaves that weren’t too bitter. Toss them with balsamic vinegar, a little olive oil, and sea salt, let them marinate for a while, and they were quite good.

We also picked the flowers when they were very abundant, and Allan made some dandelion wine. It is sometimes very good, and beautifully golden in colour.

A few years ago, I was visiting our local farmer and noticed some tender green leaves emerging from a deep straw mulch in the garlic patch. “Weeding” the garlic, I pulled out a few dozen dandelions with eight-inch long leaves and 12-inch long taproots.

When I got home, I discovered what Euell Gibbons (Stalking the Wild Asparagus) had been trying to tell me for years. The ‘crown’ of the dandelion is the most delicious part of all!  Tucked in at the junction of the leaves and the root lie the embryonic flower buds. I cleaned them well, and sautéed them with a little olive oil and garlic. Amazing! The flavour is similar to artichoke hearts

The leaves went into the salad. The taproots were scrubbed and boiled, then served with butter and sea salt. Good? Yes, and good for the ol’ spring tonic.

As I became more familiar with the dandelion crowns, I started nibbling on them right in the garden and discovered that they are also delicious raw. Who cares if they are good for my aging body?

So now I anxiously await these early spring greens. And my local farmer will be happy to see me when I go there in late April to weed his garden.

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