Dandelions: From Nuisance in Your Garden to Meal On Your Plate

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Dandelion Greens - Don't they look delicious?
Dandelion Greens – Don’t they look delicious?

This column, That Nature Show, is about the nature right under your nose: in our backyards, playgrounds and parks!  Stop and look around, you’ll be amazed at what surrounds you.

The Shake Shack  is opening here in 2015. I’m as excited as the next kid. I had a Shake Burger on the Upper West Side of Manhattan where my sister lives, where it is Breederville. It’s all moms with the $3 million strollers, and kids in Vuitton, but the playing field was leveled: we were eating the same greasy burgers!  And I felt proud that I was going home to Maryland where  day care costs more than college.  At least back at home I can forage for dandelion greens in my backyard to save money. 

Does my sister have a backyard? No. She has Columbus Circle. She has Times Square. She has that big blue whale at the Museum of Natural History. She has green grocers. She has outdoor cafes where I saw Mo Rocca. She has… Marsha Marsha Marsha. Do I sound jealous? Moi? Nevermind. Let’s get back to my backyard, where  I can forage a lovely spring salad of fresh dandelion greens, and I just did. And you can too. There’s a Meetup for Baltimore foraging.

My grandmother taught me to take hoe to earth in search of edibles. She was the kind of babushka who would slam the car into reverse if she saw a mulberry tree in fruit or a wasted patch of abandoned highway with wild blackberries. “But the thorns,” I’d say, reluctantly.  She’d say, “Never mind the thorns. Do you know how much fresh blackberries cost at Kroger’s? An arm and a leg. Get the pail.” And if there was no pail she’d use her dress. Such a farm girl.

What’s in season right now in your backyard, for free, is dandelion greens. Don’t damn them and your landscaper. Eat the weeds. How localvore is that? They are satisfyingly, tonicly tart, bitter as radiccio, and delicious and definitely good for you. Serve them with another taste of spring: Chesapeake shad and shad roe. Fry it all in butter, and pull up a chair to eat what you pulled out of the dirt.

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