Every afternoon for the last four days we’ve taken an eight-quart kettle and two knives and gone out to our meadow to “dig dandelions.” And yes, I’m talking about the common weed. In New England, we call it “digging,” but the dandelion isn’t really dug… we use the knife to cut the entire plant off just below the surface of the soil. We’re lucky to have a large meadow just filled with dandelions. In a couple of weeks when the plants we leave are in blossom, the meadow will be a field of brilliant yellow… and next year there will again be as many dandelions growing there as we will want to dig.
We New Englanders must really like our dandelions, because digging enough for a meal… or bigger quantities for canning or freezing… is a VERY time-consuming process. Cleaning the dandelions takes even more time… each one must be painstakingly cleaned to remove any dried grass or pine needles that are intertwined with the leaves. It’s a messy job we prefer to do outside, so we clean each dandelion as we dig it. The whole process has given us a pleasant couple of hours each day to relax and talk… plus the weather has been gorgeous… beautiful blue skies, bright sunshine, birds singing, and everything so green… for our country souls, what could be better than that?
Once the kettle is packed full and overflowing, we take the dandelions back to the house to wash out any dirt with several changes of water… grit left in dandelions is a horrible thing. Some people like the leaves raw in salads… we eat ours boiled until the leaves are tender. The old New England way was to cook dandelions with a piece of salt pork and season the greens at the table with a splash of vinegar… my father loved them that way. My family prefers them seasoned with just butter and salt. The cooked greens also freeze beautifully, and a good portion of the dandelions we’ve dug this year have gone right into our freezer.
Did you know that dandelions are a rich source of a number of vitamins and minerals, like vitamins A, B complex, C, and D, and the minerals iron, potassium, and zinc? Dandelions are good for you, but they are also delicious. Some people think dandelions will taste bitter, but if they are dug before the flowers open, and are properly cooked, there should be no bitter taste. We try to dig dandelions that have tiny buds… these buds, we think, are the absolute best!