“Eat your flowers and weeds,” my Mama would say. Every spring I think, and can almost see, my mother saying these words with a sly smile and a twinkle in her eye.
We had a huge violet bed on a hill in our backyard. We would pick and wrap flowers in bouquets and sell them from a basket in front of our house with a jar for the money. The honor system worked in those days. Picking and arranging lasted about two weeks, and we always kept a few for ourselves to put in salads or on a cake. They are very pretty and edible just like their cousins, pansies.
It is important to pick dandelion greens before the little flower head shows; the leaves become bitter once they flower. Dandelions are packed with Vitamin A and Vitamin C, earning them the reputation as a healthful spring tonic. The root is also used in many herbal cures for gallstones, jaundice and to alleviate other liver problems. We often, and still do, eat our dandelion greens plain with a dressing of cider vinegar, light oil and a pinch of sugar.
Chilled fiddleheads, violets, pansies, dandelion greens, early mint and watercress make a colorful and healthy salad. This can be made even fancier with the addition of some goat cheese crumbled and a sprinkling of pine nuts on top.
After this spring feast I look forward to the day lily buds, batter-dipped and fried to perfection. It is a once a year treat, so the fried part doesn’t lay the guilt on too heavily. The season is just beginning with chive, nasturtium, wild rose, sage, squash blossoms waiting in the wings for their time to bloom. The following recipe can be used for either squash blossoms or day lily bud and flowers.
Fried Squash Blossoms
1 cup unbleached flour
1½ cups water
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon each: chili powder, ginger, black pepper
20 squash blossoms
Light vegetable or corn oil for frying
In a deep bowl, make batter by mixing flour, salt, baking powder, chili powder, ginger and black pepper. Add water until the mixture feels like pancake batter. Dip flowers in batter and drop gently into hot oil. Turn once till golden on both sides. Drain and eat.
Dale Carson, Abenaki, is the author of three books: New Native American Cooking, Native New England Cooking and A Dreamcatcher Book. She has written about and demonstrated Native cooking techniques for over 30 years. Dale has four grown children and lives with them and her husband in Madison, Connecticut.