Mail Call March/April 2015: Dandelion Salad, Woodstoves, Heirloom Seeds and More

Readers share their memories and insights about dandelion salad, woodstoves, heirlooms seeds and more.

| March/April 2015

  • Dandelion salad
    Dandelion salad is one of the most underutilized tastes of spring. Try some for yourself this year using our recipes.
    Photo by
  • Evertsen wood stove
    This view belongs to Nick Evertsen of Odessa, New York.
    Photo courtesy Nick Evertsen
  • Heirloom seed packs
    Rebecca Stouffer’s seed packets, specializing in open-pollinated varieties in the North.
    Photo courtesy Rebecca Stouffer
  • Reiss family solar
    The Reiss family showcases part of their solar-electricity collection and storage capability.
    Photo couresty Tammy Reiss

  • Dandelion salad
  • Evertsen wood stove
  • Heirloom seed packs
  • Reiss family solar

Dandelion Salad

I sat down to glance through my GRIT, and I was somewhat surprised to see a recipe for Miss Bonnie’s Dandelion Green Salad in the January/February issue, and so surprised it was very different from my grandmother’s. It made me think about how much I learned from my grandparents.My dad’s parents lived right below us on about 8 acres of open field, old pasture and woods. They had sold Mom and Dad a lot at the top of the hill, and that is where we built a house when I was about 4 years old. My sister and I were lucky being able to grow up that close to our grandparents.

“Pap,” Joe Becker, made the best fried chicken and turtle soup. We used to check on turtles that were kept in a 55-gallon drum to be “cleaned out” before becoming soup. We helped feed the steer, knowing he would one day be in our freezer. As children we would pester Pap for a swig of his beer, especially in the fall when he had Bock beer. On holidays we were allowed a shot glass full of homemade dandelion or elderberry wine. We were fed things like sweet breads and brains (miss those) and squirrel pot pie. I never was fond of groundhog, though. Many days there was a pan of salt water with a carcass of some wild animal soaking to “draw out the gaminess.”

“Ev,” Evelyn Bless Becker (and Lord help my sister or me if we dared call either of them Grandpa or Grandma), was a Euell Gibbons fan. Poke and nettles I remember. She taught us what berries were safe to eat along the road and in the woods. We knew to go to her for a jewel weed ice cube to rub on ourselves if we thought we had been into poison ivy.

Eating dandelions, though, was one of my favorites. The flower buds steamed and slathered with butter and salt were good, but the salad was what I looked forward to. I would be so happy when I walked down the path through the woods to their place in early spring and saw Ev out on the hill that we might have been sledding down just six weeks beforehand. Spring had sprung, and there Ev was, old knife in hand, digging up and stuffing what most people despised as weeds into a plastic bag that had once held 4 quarts of milk. I knew I would not be eating supper at home that night!

The dandelions had to be picked over for bugs and extraneous greenery, washed, put in the colander and set on the drain board of the old white enameled sink to drain. Next, a fair amount of bacon was diced up. It had to be almost frozen, for it diced easier that way. That was fried up to crispy little bits, with lots of nice bacon grease, in a small steel pan. As that sat to cool down, the greens were added to the bowl used for dandelion salad.

In the meantime, my job was to peel a few of the hard-boiled eggs that were ever present in the refrigerator, and slice them with the egg slicer. These were added to the top of the greens.

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