This story was initially printed in Might 2016.
FORT KENT, Maine — To paraphrase Rodney Dangerfield, dandelions get no respect.
To many, the yellow flower — one of many earliest to bloom within the spring — is taken into account nothing greater than an unpleasant weed that have to be eradicated from lawns and gardens in any respect prices. That wasn’t at all times the case, in accordance the Maine Natural Farmers and Gardeners Affiliation.
“Solely within the twentieth century did people determine that the dandelion was a weed,” Anita Sanchez writes on MOFGA’s web site. “Earlier than the invention of lawns, the golden blossoms and lion-toothed leaves have been extra more likely to be praised as a bounty of meals, drugs and magic [and] gardeners used to weed out the grass to make room for the dandelions.”
However the humble yellow flower is beginning to make a comeback, in accordance with MOFGA, with folks familiarizing themselves with the plant’s medicinal and culinary traits. For folks akin to Marilyn Ouellette of Fort Kent, having prepared entry to dandelions is like grocery procuring in her personal yard.
“I’m on the market gathering [dandelions] as quickly because the solar warms issues up they usually begin popping out,” Ouellette mentioned. “I wait all winter for this.”
Ouellette, who grew up within the St. John Valley, mentioned dandelions have been an enormous a part of many households’ spring diets. And for her, they nonetheless are.
“They style so good,” she mentioned. “The season is so brief, it’s important to get on the market and get them when you can.”
Dandelion foragers akin to Ouellette know to choose solely the flowers’ new, tender inexperienced leaves earlier than the plant flowers.
“As soon as the flowers blossom, the leaves get very bitter,” she mentioned. “The youthful the plant, the higher it tastes.”
Gathering begins as soon as the spring solar warms the bottom sufficient for the dandelions to start out rising, in accordance with Ouellette. At that time, she mentioned she has about two weeks to choose a yr’s provide.
“I attempt to choose sufficient so we will have at the least one meal a month with all of them yr lengthy,” she mentioned. “They freeze fairly effectively.”
To gather her dandelion greens, Ouellette heads out armed with a knife, which she jabs into the bottom on the base of the plant to chop it off on the root. She then shakes off as a lot dust and detritus as potential earlier than bringing them dwelling and washing them once more outdoors underneath the home. The ultimate rinse is inside. Then they’re able to cook dinner.
“I cook dinner them with lard,” Ouellette mentioned with fun. “As a result of every thing’s higher with lard.”
Some folks use bacon, she mentioned, however both manner she is going to brown the lard — or bacon — after which add a little bit of water earlier than including the dandelion greens, some onions, salt and pepper.
“It’s like heaven, that first meal of dandelions,” she mentioned. “I wait all yr for it.”
She’s not the one one ready.
For Maine’s pollinators — together with honeybees — the dandelion flowers are among the many first sources of pure meals.
“Honeybees want the dandelions to construct up their shops and broods within the spring,” in accordance with Richard McLaughlin, grasp beekeeper and president of the Maine State Beekeepers Affiliation. “We actually encourage folks to depart them alone and never see them as a weed however one thing that’s actually solely round for a short while after which they will have their inexperienced lawns.”
In keeping with MOFGA, dandelions are literally good for lawns, because the flowers’ roots loosen and aerate hard-packed soil. The vegetation are good for folks, too, with MOFGA calling it “a inexperienced and rising first help equipment.”
In keeping with the web site, dandelions have been used for every thing from eradicating toxins from the bloodstream to enhancing digestive operate. Dandelions are additionally excessive in nutritional vitamins A and C and include iron, calcium and potassium, making them among the many extra nutritious wild Maine edibles.
Not unhealthy for a typical weed.
NOTE: Marilyn Ouellette is the sister-in-law of BDN reporter Julia Bayly, who has relied on her previously for info on conventional St. John Valley meals and foraging for edibles.