… At least not until you had a few messes of dandelion greens, with vinegar, butter, salt and and pepper, especially good with a few fresh brookies; then gathered the blossoms for making a mighty fine white wine, making tea and tempura, and finally, waving the fluffy white seed heads to the winds with: “Grow! Grow!” Then, come fall, dig up, dry and grind the roots for “coffee.”

The three top treasures of spring in Maine are fiddleheads, brookies and the ignorantly maligned dandelion. When the blossom turns to its white fairy-fluff ball of seeds, I’m out there waving it in the air and yelling “Grow, grow” while others are digging them up to throw in the trash or poisoning them, often while sputtering and cussing, totally ignorant that they are destroying one of the most beneficial plants God ever gave us. It’s a veritable pharmacopeia of Mother Nature’s pharmacy.

Oddly enough, although the mighty dandelion has been around since, well, the dinosaurs probably snacked on them, the dandelion is not indigenous to the Americas. They’d been called by many names, but are now commonly called dandelions, from the French “Dent de lion,” Tooth of the lion, or “Lion’s Tooth,” in reference to the toothy shape of their leaf edges.

I don’t know how the dandelion found its way to the Americas, but it didn’t take long before it was everywhere, waving its yellow blossoms across the yard of every home. We didn’t have “lawns” up on the farms. We had “yards.” Front yards, dooryards, backyards, etc. After tailored lawns, thanks to the advent of lawn mowers, came into fashion, the dandelion was looked upon as an invasive weed and the war has raged ever since.

And up until a few years ago, we could stop by just about any field in Maine and pick them. Nowadays, you’re taking a gamble you won’t get a butt full of buckshot.

Every single part of the dandelion is packed with good-for-you stuff. It’s a super spring tonic to help clean the winter sludge out of the body. Especially the blossom. Aside from making an excellent white wine, it’s loaded with “anti-” properties, all the way up to and including reported anti-tumor protection. One of my favorites was to use the blossom fried in a light tempura batter.

To list all the beneficial properties of this miraculous weed would take a book. But YouTube has dozens and more videos, easy to research. Just briefly, the dandelion is rich in minerals like iron, zinc, magnesium, potassium and calcium, and in vitamins like A, C, E and K. It’s good for digestion, detox, a blood purifier, a diuretic, antioxidant and more.

And now come fiddleheads! Check your fiddlehead patches. It’s time. One of my favorite springtime rituals was to sling a fishing rod, a cast iron fry pan and a goodly glob of butter over my shoulder and head off to one of my streams with the curved banks where the spring runoff had overflowed – perfect fiddleheads ground. Can’t hardly beat a fresh fried pan of brookies and a mess of fiddleheads steamed in river water.

The best spots require some scrambling through woods. That and the ever-shrinking accessibility due to “No Trespassing” signs and my scramble ability not being what it used to be, I have pretty much curtailed my fiddlehead forays.

I do have a spot right on the side of the road where I can get enough for a couple-three bowls. This patch was “gifted” to me by my good buddy, Tom Seymour, some years back. Fiddlehead patches are guarded like favorite fishing holes. It’s an unwritten rule that you do not ask a fisherman where his best spots are. (Not that you’re likely to get a straight answer.) The same rule applies to fiddlehead patches. So when someone gifts you with the location of one of their patches, well, that’s a friend indeed.

Unlike dandelions that now grow everywhere, especially on lawns, fiddleheads are pretty much restricted to their small pockets of natural habitat. They have not been studied much as to vitamins, minerals and such until recently, but they are — no surprise — packed with good stuff. Unlike the dandelion, their season is short. So gather ye fiddleheads while ye may.

Oh. Most people only eat the dandelion until it blossoms. It’s then the most bitter as it’s putting its energy into flowering. But after that phase is over, it’s good to eat again and it is available right into November.


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.