Dandelion Break

the gardener
i’ve got my trowel and my trencher
     she said
i’m off to sow

so saying, a-sowing she went
     with words hidden up her sleeves
     an idea or two tucked into her hatband

and the rows await
     pull out weedy fallacy
     cut back dead superstition
     cultivate and amend

and then
     drop the seed in fertile soil

this stubborn patch of clay
that deep, tilled loam
     all in her care
     all in her care

i've got my trowel and my trencher
     and a-gardening she went
     and goes each and every day

Photo by Martin Vorel 

The Old Farmer’s Almanac announced that April 5th is Dandelion Day. I’m fairly certain this is not a thing, but it should be. Dandelions are pleasurable in so many ways. Just imagine an early summer lawn dotted with bee-covered smiling suns! And when you need calm, there is nothing better than sitting in the dandelions. (I’m thinking the entire world needs a collective dandelion break right now.) In my opinion, dandelions are one of three good reasons to grow grass. (The other two are clover honey and baseball.)

With their long tap-root, dandelions bring nutrients up from the subsoil. They are feeding all the surrounding plants. Plant them in the greens bed for extra healthy salads. They are magnificent bee plants, absolutely loaded with pollen. Brush them to your face and you’ll be adorned with golden kisses. They are also loaded with nutrients, and all parts of the plant are edible. Steam the roots and eat them with a cheesy sauce. Eat new greens from from the garden with a balsamic dressing and maybe a bit of walnut, or boil the older ones and eat them like collard greens. Make tea from the leaves and flowers for a refreshing spring tonic. The flowers can be eaten raw, though they’re bitter, but the best way to enjoy these nutrient-dense natural snacks is in beer-batter fritters. (You must guard these from ravaging teenagers if you want to eat them yourself.) The second best way — and one that takes more planning — is to make dandelion wine. (We’ll be doing this later in the spring when there are dandelions in New England, but here’s a recipe for you to try if you have flowers already.)

Here’s a selection of poetry that celebrates the dandelion.

The First Dandelion
Simple and fresh and fair
     from winter's close emerging,
As if no artifice of fashion, business, politics,
      had ever been,
Forth from its sunny nook of shelter'd grass —
     innocent, golden, calm as the dawn,
The spring's first dandelion
     shows its trustful face.
— Walt Whitman
Dandy Dandelion
When Dandy Dandelion wakes
And combs his yellow hair,
The ant his cup of dewdrop takes
And sets his bed to air;

The worm hides in a quilt of dirt
To keep the thrush away,
The beetle dons his pansy shirt—
They know that it is day!

And caterpillars haste to milk
The cowslips in the grass;
The spider, in his web of silk,
Looks out for flies that pass.

These humble people leap from bed,
They know the night is done:
When Dandy spreads his golden head
They think he is the sun!

Dear Dandy truly does not smell
As sweet as some bouquets;
No florist gathers him to sell,
He withers in a vase;

Yet in the grass he's emperor,
And lord of high renown;
And grateful little folk adore
His bright and shining crown.
— Christopher Morley

There's a dandy little fellow,
Who dresses all in yellow,
In yellow with an overcoat of green;
With his hair all crisp and curly,
In the springtime bright and early
A-tripping o'er the meadow he is seen.

Through all the bright June weather,
Like a jolly little tramp,
He wanders o'er the hillside, down the road;
Around his yellow feather,
Thy gypsy fireflies camp;
His companions are the wood lark and the toad.

But at last this little fellow
Doffs his dainty coat of yellow,
And very feebly totters o'er the green;
For he very old is growing
And with hair all white and flowing,
A-nodding in the sunlight he is seen.

Oh, poor dandy, once so spandy,
Golden dancer on the lea!
Older growing, white hair flowing,
Poor little baldhead dandy now is he!
— Nellie M. Garabrant

To the Dandelion
     Dear common flower, that grow'st beside the way,
Fringing the dusty road with harmless gold,
     First pledge of blithesome May,
Which children pluck, and, full of pride, uphold,
     High-hearted buccaneers, o'erjoyed that they
An Eldorado in the grass have found,
Which not the rich earth's ample round
     May match in wealth, thou art more dear to me
     Than all the prouder summer-blooms may be.

     Gold such as thine ne'er drew the Spanish prow
Through the primeval hush of Indian seas,
     Nor wrinkled the lean brow
Of age, to rob the lover's heart of ease;
     Tis the Spring's largess, which she scatters now
To rich and poor alike, with lavish hand,
Though most hearts never understand
     To take it at God's value, but pass by
     The offered wealth with unrewarded eye.

     Thou art my tropics and mine Italy;
To look at thee unlocks a warmer clime;
     The eyes thou givest me
Are in the heart, and heed not space or time:
     Not in mid June the golden-cuirassed bee
Feels a more summer-like warm ravishment
In the white lily's breezy tent,
     His fragrant Sybaris, than I, when first
     From the dark green thy yellow circles burst.

     Then think I of deep shadows on the grass,
Of meadows where in sun the cattle graze,
     Where, as the breezes pass,
The gleaming rushes lean a thousand ways,
     Of leaves that slumber in a cloudy mass,
Or whiten in the wind, of waters blue
That from the distance sparkle through
     Some woodland gap, and of a sky above,
     Where one white cloud like a stray lamb doth move.

     My childhood's earliest thoughts are linked with thee;
The sight of thee calls back the robin's song,
     Who, from the dark old tree
Beside the door, sang clearly all day long,
     And I, secure in childish piety,
Listened as if I heard an angel sing
With news from heaven, which he could bring
     Fresh every day to my untainted ears
     When birds and flowers and I were happy peers.

     How like a prodigal doth nature seem,
When thou, for all thy gold, so common art!
     Thou teachest me to deem
More sacredly of every human heart,
     Since each reflects in joy its scanty gleam
Of heaven, and could some wondrous secret show,
Did we but pay the love we owe,
     And with a child's undoubting wisdom look
     On all these living pages of God's book.
— James Russell Lowell

©Elizabeth Anker 2021