Bright little dandelion,
Downy, yellow face,
Peeping up among the grass,
With such gentle grace;
Minding not the April wind
Blowing rude and cold,
Brave little dandelion
With a heart of gold.
With their pert yellow faces peering from amid clusters of jagged green leaves, dandelions are a distinctive flower. “You cannot forget it if you would those golden kisses all over the cheeks of the meadow, queerly called dandelions,” Henry Ward Beecher wrote in his delightful discourse on flowers. Belonging to the family of Compositae, the second largest family of flowering plants, dandelions are related to burdock, ragweed and the royal chrysanthemum. They are hardy plants, seemingly impervious to assault by rodents and grubs. They are also deceptively intricate: Each dandelion bears the weight of over two-hundred tiny blossoms, which eventually turn to the gentle puffs of fuzzy seeds beloved by children and lovelorn romantics.
Dandelion leaves make for a number of toothsome meals. They grow in abundance in fields and lawns. Gather dandelions before the flowerbud has attained any great size and serve them in a salad, as they have a pleasant bitter flavor when raw. Germans serve them with warm bacon fat, but a splash of olive oil and lemon is more refreshing. Here is a 1908 recipe for dandelion salad, a supposedly potent springtime tonic for the blood.
Rub a salad bowl with a clove of garlic slightly bruised. Cut a small leek into thin rings and place in the salad bowl. Add a dash of English mustard, salt, pepper and a tablespoon of French wine vinegar. Drop by drop, add some French [or olive] oil, up to 2 tablespoons. Mix together. Add a hard cooked egg, cut in slices. Last of all, add the dandelion leaves, about four cups. Toss with the other ingredients. Serve with a crusty white bread.
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