Walking around my yard this afternoon to see what might be poking up through the greening of the grass, I actually alerted my dog when I jumped and shouted: “Dandelions!” His head snapped up, ears alert and took off to run a reconnoiter of the yard. Seeing nothing suspicious, he trotted back and looked at me with a “What?”

My daffodils are up about 8 inches and my lilies are poking up around my flower garden. Spring has finally arrived. Looks like, in a few days, I can get me a "mess” of dandelions. That’s my yearly ritual that pins the final demarcation marking, for me, the final end of winter. No more surprise snowstorms.

Nothing better than that first big bowl of dandelions — I make it a meal — with cider vinegar, a big blob of honest butter and s&p.

Then it won’t be long before the dandelions will put on its buds. These are a special treat, but usually, I can get only one small bowl before they bloom. I steam these and then add the usual butter, vinegar and s&p. They are so tender and mild.

Then come the golden flowers, reaching for the sun. These make an excellent white wine, but I use them as another bowl-treat. I have a great, light tempura recipe that I got from the chef at the famous Castroville artichoke restaurant in Castroville, California, aka the “Artichoke Capital of the World” — also called the “armpit of California.” (More than one town in the state had that nickname. That was over 40 years ago when I lived about an hour from there. I can’t imagine how many "armpits" there are out there now.)

I dip the blossoms in the tempura batter and fry them. Really, really good.

While the dandelions are in bloom, they put all their energy into the flowers and the greens are too bitter to eat. But after they get through all that, they settle down and can you can continue to pick them for eating. They last right up to November. The problem is, we can’t stop along the road and freely go out into a field and dig dandelions like we did years ago. But the dandelions in my yard are gone with the first mowing.

After the blossoms fade and the fluffy seed heads form, I do what we did as kids — blow them off into the air. While others are putting weed killers on their dandelions and cussing under their breath, I’m out blowing and shaking them, singing: “grow, grow.” I do it now, not just as fun, but because I want them to reseed the yard for next spring.

I’m thinking about trying to set aside a small patch of the garden and plant some seed to see if I can grow a “dandelion garden” so’s I’ll have them all summer. You can actually buy dandelion seed but they are the cultivated kind. They grow up to 18 inches. I've seen them in stores but never tried them. They just don’t look like they’d taste the same.

In the fall, the roots can be dug and ground for a coffee substitute. I use them to make a tincture also. The lowly, maligned dandelion is one of the most jam-packed full of good-for-us things. With all their minerals and vitamins and other constituents, they are cited for just about every folk and herb remedy there is.

Dandelions are the first Spring Tonic food that nature gives us for cleaning winter’s sludge out of our systems. And come May, the fiddleheads will bust through the ground. And come summer, I’ll go down into my woods and dig up some sarsaparilla roots to make tea and maybe, this year, I’ll bottle some soda. Those are all good for tonics.

Grammie Tucker used to give us kids two other ones: sulfur and molasses and castor oil.

I think I’ll skip that last one. I can still see that big tablespoon of castor oil coming at me.

Marion Tucker-Honeycutt, an award-winning columnist, a Maine native and graduate of Belfast schools, now lives in Morrill. Her columns appear in this paper every other week.