One day, as we were putting the newspaper together, a co-worker marveled at a recipe using dandelions in the Amish Cook column.
But to me, it really wasn’t that odd.
I remember as a child, my Grandma Onie would pluck up the abundant dandelions in the yard to create a wonderful salad.
For some, this might sound really strange. But at the time, it really wasn’t.
The trick was picking the weeds while they were still young – and really only in the spring.
Grandma Onie explained that the leaves had to be young so they would have a tender texture. And it could really only be done in the spring because when the temperatures got too high, the leaves would take on a bitter taste.
Lucky for Grandma, dandelions have a nice yellow flower – so she could entice us kids to help her. We could keep the flowers, give them to our mother as a gift, stick them in our hair or whatever we chose. And she would take the leaves.
Once she rinsed them really well, she would make a dressing using vinegar, sugar and milk. Sometimes she’d throw in bacon and onions.
And Grandpa Andy would eat it up, as would I because I was the only kid interested in culinary adventure. I had no worries -- I saw how old Grandpa was, meaning she hadn’t killed him yet.
I also remember her taking the blossoms, gingerly washing them and then steeping them in an old tea kettle that was also sort of a steamer. She’d remove the flowers, pour the stuff in cups and add sugar. It was a strange sort of tea that Grandma said “only adults will appreciate.” I suppose she was trying to explain away the horrible look on my face when I tried it.
Grandma Onie had a way of using everything in all ways – she was of the mind set that nothing should be wasted.
She always rinsed her dishes in a bus tub and then carried the water to the chickens. I guess the birds didn’t care they were drinking diluted soap (and it appeared some of the old girls were as old as Grandpa, so they hadn’t died either).
All excess from preparing garden produce when canning was also given to the chickens – what they wouldn’t eat, she’d scoop up and use as fertilizer for her grape vines and rosebushes.
Eggshells were cleaned and used for making coffee (in the percolator method).
Cigarette butts were deposited underneath the evergreen trees (the reason for that one, I have no idea).
Old newspapers and magazines were promptly taken to the outhouse as a gesture of kindness for Grandpa Andy. They had a bathroom, but it was consistently stressed it was “preferred” if he would continue to do his business in the outhouse. Oh well, at least she didn’t leave him old corn cobs.
Empty coffee cans became the baking vessels for her extraordinary homemade bread.
If she made too much flour-based thickener for gravy on Monday, she’d store it in the refrigerator overnight, add to it later and it would become dumplings for soup on Tuesday.
Nothing was wasted . . . even the weeds.
So as I reminisce about watching the art of dandelion cooking and a craving begins for the odd food, I realize I should just buy a bag or carton of spring salad mix. Have you ever noticed there are a number of leaves that really resemble dandelion sprouts? I think they probably are exactly what I think.
Maybe Grandma wasn’t so crazy after all.