Here in Northern Wisconsin, we are still seeing piles of snow remaining on what we hope will soon be green lawns. Before we know it, we will be visited by the pops of yellow that are loved by children and despised by allergy sufferers. The dandelion, which is mostly a weed, is a very nutritional plant. It was used by American Indians for both food and medicine. The dandelion is rich in vitamins and minerals, specifically Vitamin A (Source: From Blueberries to Wild Roses: A Northwoods Wild Foods Cookbook, Dottie Reeder)
The dandelion is a great example of how the American Indians believe in using everything that The Creator has provided in nature. The leaves, roots, and even the flower can be put to use.
Leaves: It is best to harvest when they are young and tender. As the plant gets older, the leaves tend to have a bitter taste. Use the leaves as you would fresh greens or steam like spinach.
Flowers: The flowers are edible and have been used in many ways including: in salads, in beverages, or as a dye.
Roots: The roots can be collected, cleaned and boiled as a typical root vegetable.
The following recipe from University of Wisconsin Extension Program uses the green leaves in a stir fry.
Dandelion Stir Fry
6 handfuls of dandelion greens
2 fish of choice (any small pan fish) or 1 medium fish (sucker, redhorse or salmon)
Fat to grease pan
Salt and pepper
Cut, clean, and fillet fish. Cut into long strips. Chop onions. Wash and chop dandelion leaves. Grease metal fry pan slightly. Place on medium heat. Place strips of fish in pan. Add onion, salt and pepper and a few pinches of white sage. Let cook til nearly done, (fish is flaking and onions are transparent). Then add dandelion leaves. Cook until leaves are tender. Add salt, pepper, and sage again, to taste.
My main reason for writing about the dandelion is because of a legend my grandma told me. It is one of my favorites from the many she shared over the years. So, I am sharing the story of Shawondasee and the Golden Girl, as roughly told by my Grandma Dee (Delores Bainbridge, Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa).
Shawondasee is the south wind. In the summer, Shawondasee was very lazy and liked to lie in the shade of great oak trees. He would inhale the wonderful scents of the summer and when he exhaled, he would spread the beautiful odor.
One day, Shawondasee, from his spot under the trees, sleepily glanced around at the fields and saw a beautiful slender girl with yellow hair in the distance. He thought she was so beautiful and wanted to call her to him. But, he was too lazy.
The next day, he looked again and spotted the slender girl with the yellow hair, still out there in the field. He thought her more beautiful than before. Every day he would wake and hold his breath until he saw her there in the field.
But one day, he awoke and glanced over the field. He looked again and rubbed his eyes to clear his vision. His golden girl was gone! In her place stood an old woman with a head of gray.
Shawondasee was so upset that he cried out “My brother, the north wind, has played a cruel trick on me. He has put his hand on her head and look what he has done!” Shawondasee was so upset that he gave such a mighty cry that the old woman’s hair fell from her head and she was gone.
And as we know, this is the way of the dandelion, so beautiful and yellow to start and then moving to the gray haired lady before blowing away!