Please Don’t Eat the Hyacinths (But it’s okay to drink the dandelions)

I was researching on the Internet about edible flowers and I found a site that recommended boiling them.  I can barely keep flowers going in a regular flower pot.  Why in the world would I want to boil flowers?  Mmmm . . . boiled pansies.  I can only imagine what that would look like!

Another site advised consuming edible flowers was healthy for you because they are low in sodium.  Well, it’s a reason I guess.  Probably extremely low-calorie and fat-free too.  I suppose they must have some nutritional value.  Bees certainly get a buzz from them.

I’ve tried steamed squash blossoms.  They’re not too bad-looking and tasting.  They say gladioli taste like lettuce, angelica like celery and carnations taste peppery.  Maybe I simply need to give them a try, but I just can’t wrap my taste buds around eating flowers.  Sorry, no.  I’d feel like a goat.

Apparently you have to know what you’re doing if you want to nosh on flowers so you don’t accidentally poison yourself.  According to one chart online, day lilies act as a laxative.  Hyssop is not good for pregnant women or people with epilepsy or hypertension.  Apple blossoms may contain precursors to cyanides.  (Good Lord!)  For tuberous begonias, only hybrids are edible.  The flowers and stems contain oxalic acid and should not be consumed by individuals suffering from gout, kidney stones or rheumatism.  Lavender tastes like perfume and the oil may be poisonous, so use sparingly.  These are from the edible list!  (http://homecooking.about.com/library/weekly/blflowers.htm)

And honeysuckle–the flower my children used to pluck off the vine and suck the nectar out of like a bunch of little hummingbirds when we lived in Georgia–has extremely poisonous berries, I learned.  Whew!  Never tried them myself, but my boys would drink from dozens of honeysuckle blossoms at a time and they did not suffer any ill effect.  They just moved about so fast it was hard to get a good look at them sometimes.

As I read down the chart, I got to dandelions.  “Young buds fried in butter taste like mushrooms,” it says.  “Makes a potent wine.”  Aha!  There it is–Dandelion Wine. The title of one of my favorite Ray Bradbury stories.  In fact, it was an all-time favorite book–period.  This book was the inspiration for the ultimate project of my seventh-grade summer.
English: Dandelion by the coast path Dandelion...

Image via Wikipedia

I picked and picked and picked those dandelions until I had gallons of them.  I carefully took off the flower heads, washed them, boiled them and put them in big buckets with water in our garage.  I’m not sure what else I put in them.  Sugar, I think, and lemons.  I covered them with cheesecloth and checked them every day expecting to eventually find they fermented into a lovely yellow nectar of the gods that would fill my summer days with magic and adventure!  I wanted to be like the twelve-year-old character Douglas Spaulding in the book!  I wanted to “pack all the joys of summer” into a bottle of that wine.

Well it fermented alright.  You wouldn’t believe what those buckets smelled like after a few weeks in the garage in the mid-summer heat!  My winemaking venture was a total failure and the stuff I concocted was a cruel insult to my youthful vision of summer bliss a la Ray Bradbury.  My expectations went as flat as a plate of boiled pansies.

Not that I’d given any thought whatsoever to what I, an eleven-year-old, would do with dandelion or any other kind of wine.  I just wanted to succeed in making it.  (I had always made fabulous dandelion jewelry in the past, why not dandelion wine?)

Since then I learned to make delicious dandelion greens.  These are great in the spring and provide lots of health benefits.  They are a wonderful cleansing tonic to refresh you from the long winter of eating heavier foods.  Dandelion greens can be very bitter but if you start looking for them now through early spring, while they are very young, the bitterness will not be overbearing.  (I am talking about looking for them in your organic food store, not your lawn! Although technically, your backyard dandelions could be added to the edible lawn weeds chart.)

Sautéed Dandelion Greens

Wash young dandelion leaves and stems in cold water and cut them in 1-inch pieces.  Heat some olive oil in a heavy pan and drop in some minced garlic (to taste).  Before the garlic gets overcooked and brown, add the cut dandelion greens and sprinkle with sea salt.  Sautee the greens until they are tender but still bright looking.  Finish with a little soy sauce if you like.  Garnish with thinly sliced lemon peel.  (Optional:  decorate with fuchsia or lilac blossoms)

******

Sometimes I still think about giving Dandelion Wine another go.  In case you or I want to try packing all the joys of summer into a bottle of homemade dandelion wine, there are plenty of recipes to be found online.  And there’s a place in North Dakota called Maple River Winery that makes and sells Dandelion Wine (Now you’re talkin’).  They say it is one of their best sellers.  (http://www.mapleriverwinery.com/history.htm)

So it turns out I may not want to eat carnations, lilies or nasturtiums.  But the lowly dandelion has been on my menu for quite some time.  Anyone want to contribute a recipe for Dandelion Buds fried in butter?

Much love, Patty

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8 thoughts on “Please Don’t Eat the Hyacinths (But it’s okay to drink the dandelions)

  1. Pingback: Leafy Green for Springtime Clean | mycookinglifebypatty

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  3. Pingback: D is for DANDELION - Eat Weeds! Sautéed DANDELION Greens | Cabin Goddess

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