Sunday, October 23, 2016

Dandelions Sweet as Sugar

No matter where in the State of Maine you live, it’s likely that your area has suffered a killing frost. For those who cling to their perennial and annual flower beds, that is bad news. But for dandelion lovers, read on.

Springtime and dandelions, almost synonymous to many people, mark a fairly short-lived window of opportunity for dandelion addicts. Spring sees us digging fat, sprawling dandelions. But after true warm weather arrives and dandelions go to flower, the leaves and even the crowns become bitter. And so we wait for the following spring for more of our cherished greens.

But wait. That’s not the end of the story. Did you know that after a killing frost, dandelions lose all trace of bitterness? Yes, that is so. Who knew?

Well, until a few years ago I didn’t. But my good friend Marion Hunnicutt did and Marion enlightened me regarding other uses of dandelions than just spring-dug plants.

First, Marion mentioned that dandelion blossoms, in my mind only useful for making dandelion wine, were ambrosial when fried in a Tempura batter. I tried it this spring and sure enough, Marion had struck a home run. The blossoms were a true delicacy when prepared this way.

But back to fall-dug dandelions. Sure, the plants lack the bulk of spring-dug plants because in spring, dandelions are putting on mass preparatory to blooming. And until the blossoms open they are yummy. After blooming, though, dandelions become bitter to the point of having to pucker when tasting even a tiny portion.

Fall-dug dandelions don’t have the mass or bulk of the springtime variety. They more closely resemble those sparse dandelions we dig as soon as snow melts and we can find a few plants from last year. Well, those early spring dandelions are the same ones we find now in fall, after a few, good freezes.

So dandelion lovers unite! Go forth, digger in hand and harvest this late-season bounty. If I’m any kind of judge of horseflesh, you’ll be glad you did.

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