Thursday, April 7, 2011

Dent de Lion

Is it a weed or a wildflower? Dandelions are showing their cheerful sunny faces all over our farm just now.

Its jagged edged leaves, which account for the name “Tooth of the Lion,” pop up in gardens and lawns everywhere. Perfectionists deplore the dandelion but herbalists  value its diuretic powers. (An old name for dandelion was ‘Piss-a-beds.') 

In earlier times, the young leaves were a welcome Spring addition to the diet as a salad (or 'sallet' in the old time speech)or briefly sautéed with bacon and seasoned with a little vinegar.

And, of course, there's dandelion wine. It sounded so magical-- all summer in a bottle--in the Ray Bradbury tale of the same name but was truly foul in my one (failed) attempt at making it years ago.

Have any of you ever tasted -- or made dandelion wine?


Victoria said...

No dandelions here yet, but I can't wait for them to arrive. They're one of my favorite wildflowers.

I have never made dandelion wine, but I tasted some. It wasn't very good. It was homemade, too. Is dandelion wine even made commercially?

Martin H. said...

My late father-in-law made a cracking dandelion wine. Alas, I don't know what his secret was.

Pat in east TN said...

My father-in-law was famous for his dandelion wine, but I had never tasted it. Now his blackberry wine was something else and my favorite.

Brian Miller said...

i have had a bit of dandelion wine in my FIL made it and paid the little to collect the dandelions...i like dandelions personally...weed or otherwise...

Elora said...

Our attempts yours! Picking a bushel of flower heads and then stripping them of their greenery...ah, well....too labor-intensive when other Spring tasks beckon! And the taste was less than pleasing. Love the Dandy Lions, though!


Vicki Lane said...

Obviously, from Martin's, Pat's, and Brian's comments, one has to be a father in law to make good dandelion wine...

Mel said...

I've never tasted dandelion wine, but I've sampled some good moonshine and peach brandy. My parents both ate dandelion greens in their younger years, but we never ate them, I assume because collards, kale and mustard greens were available and tastier.
Dandelion Wine is one of my favorite books, I am probably due for a reread soon!
We don't have dandelions yet, but they should peek out any day now. Thanks for sharing yours.

Tess Kincaid said...

I have wonderful memories of helping my grandmother gather huge dandelion greens by the side of country roads in rural Indiana. She stewed them like most any greens.

Kristen Haskell said...

I like them in salad mixes. I've never tasted the wine but after reading on I'm guessing that is a good thing.

Merisi said...

Never tasted dandelion wine, but my neighbor made "honey" with the petals. I helped her collect the flowers and got a jar of honey in return. It's basically sugar sirup, but with a delicious flowery taste. I love it over strawberries, just a few threads.

Italians still eat dandelion greens. Funny thing is, they call it cicoria (chicory), even though it is dandelion (dente di leone). Blanching the leaves a minute or two in a pot of hot water that is at a rolling boil takes away the bitterness (one should pick the greens before the plants bloom, i.e. before the leaves turn too bitter). Whenever I am in Rome, I make sure to eat either boiled dandelion or Swiss chard (the Italians use the young leaves), squeezed dry after blanching, with a squirt - or three - of good olive oil and a squeeze of lemon juice. Yammeous! :-)

Talking of soring greens, le "puntarelle", come to mind. They are all over the green markets this time of the year. I have no idea what they are called in English, never once saw them in the USA. They are eaten raw, look a little bit like a giant relative of dandelions, but are tender like asparagus and eaten raw with a most delicious anchovy dressing.

And then there is wild asparagus ..... ;-)

Darla said...

Wonderful...I love Dandelions! And thanks for the reminder...a friend gave me a homemade bottle of dandelion wine last year that I have yet to open! :-) I'm not a wine person, but hers is supposedly quite nice so I'll let you know...

Kathryn Stripling Byer said...

Hi Vicki, I hope to have you up for Poet of the Week soon. I'll be back to you on the segments I want to use. Too busy to keep up with blogging, alas, in the way I'd like.

Joyce said...

Dandelions are starting to show up here, too and Allen has made some excellent dandelion wine in addition to elderberry, rhubarb and a wicked potato-based wine that is called jungle juice. After sharing the jungle juice with an ex-sister-in-law (and here the emphasis is on"ex") we often refer to it as Truth Serum. They are not table wines, but nice as an apertif or after dinner treat. I'd love to share a bottle with some time soon.


Dandelion salad is on my menu each spring. Now I've also added wild watercress as I found a place in a creek where they grow (a non-polluted creek). Of course the first settlers from Europe brought over dandelion seeds to provide fresh greens for their family's menu. The dandelions eventually broke out of the gardens and became naturalized throughout the country. Many folks try to eradicate them unfortunately, but they provide spring beauty, soil texture, greens, landing pads for insects, and necklaces for children, plus more. -- barbara

Desiree said...

Well, you know what they say about weeds...they are just flowers that happen to be growing in the wrong place at the wrong time :)

jennyfreckles said...

I've tons of dandelions - they're indestructible. I'm not moved to make anything edible from them though.

JJM said...

I've always wanted to taste dandelion wine, but alas have never had the opportunity. Moonshine, yes ... Tasted like cardboard, but packed a wallop. (Had a neighbour years and years ago who distilled it in his garage. With the help of his state trooper son.)

And then there was the elderberry wine served on stage during the intermission of a student production of Arsenic and Old Lace by the two actresses who played Martha and Abby Brewster -- and who made the wine. They complimented those of us who accepted their invitation on being exceptionally courageous and offered us a room in the basement to sleep it off! [laughter]

I have a bottle of Korean raspberry wine standing on the kitchen counter at the moment. Drinkable dessert.


Bouncin' Barb said...

According to my Dad, his Dad made it frequently and he liked it. I have never tasted it personally.

Vicki Lane said...

Okay, I'm intrigued by the idea of dandelion honey . . . how is it made, Merisi? And le puntarelle?

Darla -- let us know how that wine is. I could be tempted to try again...

K, looking forward to hearing from you!

You interest me strangely, Joyce... Allen is a man of many talents.

Mario -- we have some commercially produce raspberry and blackberry wine from Pennsylvania -- the raspberry makes me think a bit of cough syrup but the blackberry is quite nice.

Merisi said...

Dandelion honey:
These are nice images, but the recipe is not the one my neighbor uses
What is right, is the way the petals need to be pulled off the flowerhead.

This sounds like what neighbor works with, except that I would have to ask her if she uses lemons and vanilla bean:

Weed those pesky dandelions from your lawn and make a treat from the flowers. Dandelion honey is great on toast, muffins, pancakes, and biscuits.
Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 4 hours

Total Time: 4 hours, 30 minutes


4 cups dandelion petals
4 cups water
3 (1/4-inch) thick slices lemon
1/2 vanilla bean, split in half
2-1/8 cups granulated white sugar

Pick dandelion flowers during the daylight while in full bloom, remove petals, then measure petals only.

Place petals in a heavy saucepan along with the water, lemon slices, and vanilla bean. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 30 minutes. Remove from heat and let steep for 6 hours.

Strain dandelion tea through cheesecloth and discard solids. Place in a heavy saucepan and bring to a low boil. Gradually add sugar while stirring until sugar is dissolved. Lower heat and let simmer to desired syrupy thickness (may take up to 4 hours).

Dandelion Honey is great on toast, muffins, pancakes, and biscuits.

Yield: about 1 cup


Please write me a note if you really plan on making it. I shall give my neighbor a call then (I just waved to her down in the garden, she was picking ramps - planted from the woods years. I can't talk to her this early, some neighbors like to sleep still at this early hour.)

Merisi said...

I will look for the Puntarelle dressing tonight!

Vagabonde said...

I never thought about the dent de lion – interesting. In French we call them “pissenlit” which is piss in bed really. I eat dandelion greens as often as I can find them at Harry’s Market – in salad with hard boiled eggs. I have eaten them since I was a child and can make a large bowl and eat only that for dinner. And if I can find them I may eat the same thing for 4 days in a row! No one else at home likes that. I read a French recipe for pissenlit jam. You use only the flowers and 2 oranges, sugar, etc. but I have never tasted it.