I have turned into one of those gardeners—the kind who pours through early-arriving plant catalogs to get through the long winter months when hands-on gardening is impossible. (Houseplants are no substitute, and seem to require a different kind of green thumb than I possess.)
This year’s warm and extended early spring gave me fleeting hope that I could get a jump on spring clean up and weeding, but a new job and other obligations kept me from spending more than a day or two in the yard. I was almost—almost—happy when cold weather returned, putting a hold on some of spring’s progress, and the inevitable weeds that come with that first hint of warm weather.
It wasn’t till last Saturday morning that I found time to tackle the dandelions blooming in my front yard. Most were in the tree lawn, along with plantain weed, crabgrass, and other familiar weed varieties that I recognize but cannot name.
Spending time in one’s tree lawn on a sunny weekend morning, digging out weeds one at a time, provides hours of opportunity to meet and greet neighbors, both known and unfamiliar. One man passing with his dog paused and said, “They just come back, you know.” His tone was matter-of-fact; disapproving even. I wondered if he had given up on his own battle against the stubborn yellow weeds, and I imagined his yard as one of those literally covered in dandelions. As a conversation starter, this one wasn’t inviting. I replied, “Yes, but not as many.” He agreed, and then in the same serious tone noted, “They make a good salad,” and I concurred.
They do make a good salad—and they are even better sautéed with olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic and some carmelized onions. The first summer after we moved to this house, I pulled up enough dandelion greens to make a small side dish. But this year, it wouldn’t have been worth the time and trouble to separate the leaves from the flowers and wash them thoroughly enough to cook them. They shrink down like fresh spinach when cooked, and I would have ended up with no more than a stringy handful. This year, all the dandelion leaves destined for my sauté pan will have to come from Zagara’s or the farmers market. They always do come back, I know—just not as many, if you take the time to dig them out.