Howard Lake-Waverly Herald, June 11, 2001

Dandelion contest in full swing

By Lynda Jensen

The Good Neighbor Days Dandelion Contest is in full swing, with more than 25 specimens turned in for consideration.

The "longest stem" division of the contest boasts the most entries, with 16 specimens being submitted.

The three other areas of competition, the "widest flower," the "longest unbroken root" and "weirdest flower" are not fairing so well, with three entries or less in each category. There is only one entry for the weirdest flower; which is a two-headed dandelion.

Those interested in submitting dandelions for competition must place them in a bag and attach a name and phone number to it. Entries may be dropped off at the Herald office.

The deadline for submitting dandelions is 2 p.m. Wednesday, June 20. Winners will be announced at Good Neighbor Days.

First and second place winners will be selected from each category, with $10 being awarded for the best entry and $5 awarded for second place.

The war of weeds

Those who are waging war against weeds may want to consider some basic information about dandelions, courtesy of Joan Johnson's Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted fourth grade class, who studied the plant this year.

One dandelion plant has an average of about 150 seeds per flower, and an average of 16 flowers per plant, which means it can produce about 62,800 seeds, Johnson said.

The dandelion was named by the French "dent de lion" which means "lion's tooth" because of the shape of the leaf, Johnson said.

How did dandelions come to Minnesota?

Believe it or not, dandelions came to Minnesota by mail in 1849.

Harriet Godfrey lived in Orono, Maine, before she moved to Minnesota and missed the pretty yellow flower. She missed it so much, in fact, that she asked a friend to mail her some seeds, which her friend did.

"We thank Harriet Godfrey for Minnesota's dandelions," Johnson said.

Dandelion salad

In the past, and even today, dandelions are eaten for food, Johnson said.

As a green, cooked vegetable, the young, inner, tender leaves of the dandelion are gathered in the spring and then boiled.

They should not be cooked too long, and it is well to change the water once or twice to reduce bitterness, Johnson said.

They are usually served with a lump of butter and a dash of vinegar. Many people prefer to cook the dandelion leaves with a little fat, salt pork, or bacon chopped fine, and to serve them with sour cream dressing.

Dandelion leaves can be blanched and used raw as a salad. The blanching improves the flavor. Blanching is achieved by shielding the dandelion plant from sunlight. Two boards in the form of an inverted V, paper or a larger flower pot can be used, Johnson said.

Dandelion salad

1 lb. young dandelion greens

12 slices bacon

2 cloves of garlic, mashed

1/2 cup red wine vinegar

Salad dressing of choice

Salt and pepper

Wash young dandelion greens thoroughly, floating them in a large quantity of water in a basin to remove all the soil. Drain greens and dry between sheets of paper towelling. Tear greens coarsely and arrange them lightly in a serving bowl.

Cut the bacon into half-inch strips and combine them in a skillet with the garlic. Set the skillet over moderate heat and cook bacon thoroughly without letting it become crisp.

Remove and discard cloves of garlic. Slowly, to avoid splattering, stir the vinegar into the bacon and the rendered fat in skillet.

Let mixture heat through to blend the flavors and remove the pan from the heat. Let dressing cool and pour it over greens in bowl. Blend in salad dressing of choice and season salad with salt and pepper to taste. Serves six.

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