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FEBRUARY 23, 2010 11:05AM

When all you have in your yard is dandelions . . .

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Flower power

  ... Then it’s time to make dandelion wine. When my Granny Jessie passed on, in the early 1990’s, one of the things that came to me was a little square wooden box full of recipe cards, although to be frank and fair, Granny Jessie probably did not use the recipes in it; some pre-printed on standard stock, cut out from magazines, others hand-copied in pencil, or merely cut from newspaper pages – and most of those are as brittle as ashes. No, I think she saved them because they intrigued her, or someone at a church pot-luck supper who brought something that she liked the taste of, scribbled it down for her, and she thought that she might make them someday.

  recipe sampler

Some of the recipes cut from the newspaper have dates on them – from the 1970s mostly. Some of them, of course, may be older. But Granny Jessie wasn’t that much of an adventurous cook – even before Grandpa Jim died; Grandpa Jim being one of those who thought salt and pepper was about as far out on the culinary edge of things as any human being ought to go. No, Granny Jessie did basic, early 20th century American cooking – which, when it was good, was very good. Her rice pudding (with raisins in it!)  and her version of shoo-fly pie was sublime.

 the box

 Among the adventurous curiosities in the little wooden recipe box was a newspaper clipping which so intrigued me that I copied out all the recipes therein – the topic was dandelions. Everyone knows what dandelions are, and people who are proud of their lawns spend a great deal of effort, expense and toxic chemicals eradicating them  . . .  and expense and effort which might not be necessary if we considered dandelions as a garden crop, instead. Yes, indeedy, the darned things are edible – at least when they are tender and young, and have not had any of the aforementioned chemicals poured upon them. Instead, what about a salad of dandelion greens – with bacon! Everything goes better with bacon!   And what about dandelion wine?

 the guardian of the box

 (Jezzie, the fearless Guardian of the Box)

 Dandelion Green Salad

 Fry until crisp – 3 slices bacon. Arrange in a flat, shallow dish, several cups of clean, dry dandelion greens, and crumble the bacon over it. Garnish with finely chopped chives and parsley.  Dress with 2 TBsp vinegar and 1 TBsp olive oil, and a sprinkling of salt and pepper.


Dandelion Crowns

Trim leaves from whole plant, just where they turn green. Trim off root, just below crown, and clean thoroughly. Simmer for 5 minutes in water, then drain and simmer in fresh water another five minutes. Serve with a little melted butter and fresh pepper. Crowns may also be marinated for at least four hours in ½ cup olive oil, ¼ cup vinegar, 1 sliced garlic clove and a thinly sliced onion.


Dandelion Wine

Clean sepals from and wash thoroughly 6 cups dandelion blossoms. Place in a sterilized jar and cover with 3 quarts boiling water. Add rind from 2 lemons and 2 oranges, Cover mouth of jar with plastic wrap and allow to set for 2 days.


Strain liquid into another sterilized jar and stir in: 2 ½ pounds sugar, juice of 2 lemons and 2 oranges, ½ lb raisins, coarsely ground, and ½ package yeast. Cover and set away for one week. Strain into a gallon jug, adding additional water to fill, if necessary. Seal tightly and allow to ferment for 3 months. When it stops fermenting, pour into another jar and allow to stand until clarified. Bottle, and seal, and allow to age.


humble dandelion


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food/drink, texas, domestic, wine

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I loved this post and will try some of the recipes. In the 26 years I have lived in my house, I am never put any chemicals in the yard, so dandelions are my major garden crop.
I have a recipe box that looks just like that, with an equal number of strange recipes in them, most of which I have never tried. I should print this blog and put it in the box for my daughters to find!
I have jsut gotten into the beginnings of wine making. My first batch is currently fermenting.

I have stolen you Granny Jessie's reciepe for dandelion wine. I intend to begin making some as soon as the dandelions begin to bloom.
I'll let ya' know how it is in about eight months or so
One person's weed is another person's salad.
I love dandelions. When I was in the elementary school, and whilst reading "My Side of the Mountain", we had a Wilderness Festival. I will never forget making the dandelion coffee, sassafras root beer, Lily soup.. venison etc...
OMG - someone else was a mad fan of My Side of the Mountain? For a good bit in middle school, I had mad fantasies about running away and living in a hollow tree and living off the land.
The only thing that stopped me was that... well, that part of So. Cal was not conducive to my plan. There were no hollow trees, and since Dad did the best nature walks around, there was damn little to live on, except for acorns ... which had to be ground up and have boiling water poured through them in order to be rendered edible, and that actually sounded much more trouble than just hunkering down and enduring middle school hell.
I've tried dandelion salad. Edible is not synonymous with delicious and if there's a food in your backyard that no one you know ever eats, there's probably a good reason for it.

I note you don't say you ate the dandelion salad nor wasted your time making wine.

You can eat raw acorns -- you just don't want to.

Stinging nettles are a better dish than dandelions, despite the stings you'll have to endure between plant and pot even if you wear gloves. Stinging nettles are kind of weedy tasting, which in my mind is a huge improvement over bitter dandelions.
I love Dandelion wine, and Elderberry wine. It's da bomb.
I think you have to live in the midwest to have enough of the right kind of dandelions to make the wine -- Ray Bradbury's Grandpa made it in his basement, too -- and of course, Ray made it famous in his wonderful novel by the same name, as he transported us back to the warm summer days and dark, twilight ravines of his home town -- on the marshmallow soles of a new pair of Keds.
One question here ... it seems that in one of my herbal books, it lists dandelion as a diuretic. Is this true?
Penelope Ann -- out in California
I have no idea about it being a diuretic, P-A... maybe if we consult the Great God Google?...
M - I think the key is that they have to be very young and new leaves. If memory serves, the very new and young leaves are about the same degree of flavorfulness as the spring green mix sold in the up-scale supermarkets. Pour on enough oil and vinegar, and sufficient bacon, I expect that anything would become palatable!
No, I haven't ventured to brew a vat of dandelion wine... I passed on the recipes from Grandma Jessie's box'o recipes as a curiosity only.
yes, I wanted to do the whole "hollow" tree thing. I wanted to use animal hide to make a doorway and write in solitude. (there may be no mention of "animal hide to make a tree doorway" in the book, but that is the memory I have from reading the story... and my memory stinks)
I checked out dandelion's herbal qualities on a Website called Medline Plus (a service of US National Library of Medicine & National Institute of Health). It appears that dandelions have many herbal/medicinal uses throughout history and in many cultures. It says that dandelions can be a mild diuretic, and has historically been used as such, but should not be given to patients with kidney failure concerns (understandable). Sounds like you would have to take some concentrated form like a tincture for it to be medicinal, so having a salad, or a glass of wine or two, would probably not qualify.
I'm going to watch for some in my garden this spring, and depending on how many I find, I'll do a salad or maybe add some to soup! Thanks for this fun post -- Penelope Ann