When I was a child, the only thing I knew to do with dandelions was blow on the little puffballs and watch the seeds float off into the wind. As an adult, I heard rumors that some people ate dandelion greens, but I didn’t know anyone who did.
A few years ago I went to lunch with one of my editors who lives in Sugarcreek. The “special” for the day—handwritten on a sign outside the restaurant–was Dandelion Gravy and that’s what my editor ordered.
“You’ve GOT to be kidding,” I said. “What IS that stuff!”
“It’s a seasonal Amish dish around here,” she said. “They only serve it for a couple weeks in the spring when the dandelion leaves are tender. People either really love it or really hate it.”
I decided to give this weird-sounding dish a whirl. For me, it turned out to be love at first bite. The combination of spring greens in a mild sweet and sour bacon gravy was delicious. Since then, after a long winter, I find myself craving it and I begin eying dandelions voraciously as soon as their little yellow heads begin to appear.
Our backwoods yard is carpeted with young dandelions right now, so I fixed a double batch of dandelion gravy last night. My husband inhaled two heaping platefuls and said it was the most delicious thing I’d fixed since Christmas. I agreed and savored every mouthful. My son said that it was okay, but not his favorite.
When I researched the nutrition value of dandelions, I was surprised to learn that they are not native to our country. Europeans brought the seeds with them and cultivated them in their gardens, much like we grow lettuce. Their seeds quickly began to spread across America. The leaves are packed with all sorts of good things.
Here’s the recipe I used if you want to try it.
1) Gather 4 tightly packed cups of dandelion leaves early in the spring when the leaves are tender. (Make sure the yard or property you gather them from hasn’t been sprayed with any sort of weed killer. It’s also best not to gather plants from road sides.) Wash, shake dry, and chop into bite size pieces.
2) Boil 2 eggs
3) Make enough mashed potatoes for about 4 people (unless you are doubling the recipe.)
4) Fry about 4 strips of bacon. Drain. Reserve grease.
5) Chop 1 onion—toss into skillet of hot grease.
6) Stir in 2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour (We’re gluten free so I used rice flour)
7) Stir in 2 tablespoons water until thick
8) Stir in 1 cup of milk. (Or more. Whatever it takes to make a gravy-like consistency.)
9) Salt and Pepper to taste.
So far, you’ve just made mashed potatoes with bacon gravy. Now here’s where things get interesting.
10) Add 1 tablespoon of sugar
11) Add 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar
12) Stir in all the young dandelion greens and cook until they wilt
13) Chop up the two eggs and add to mixture.
14) Serve by ladling the gravy over the mashed potatoes and sprinkling bits of bacon on top.
You have just made authentic Amish country dandelion gravy
Here’s a picture of what we fixed last night. No, it isn’t pretty. But it IS delicious. Unless you are one of those people who really hate it. If you are, don’t blame me. Just eat the mashed potatoes and bacon and be happy. At least you got some exercise gathering dandelion greens.
It is my favorite time of year again. September! The Swiss Festival in Sugarcreek, Ohio is happening this weekend (September 26-27) and I intend to be there on Saturday from 6 to 8 pm, signing books at the Gospel Shop at 112 Main Street. At 8 p.m. if the weather holds, there will be a showing of the movie right in the middle of downtown Sugarcreek.
For those who watched Love Finds You In Sugarcreek, Ohio, you’ll recognize the Swiss Festival from the scenes shot in the midst of it last year. For the most part, those were not actors you saw in the background, but real people enjoying themselves at the festival as the crew shot around them.
People frequently ask me to recommend places to go see while in the area. Here’s one place I always stop by. Finders Keepers, 100 E. Main Street which is just a few doors down from the Gospel Shop.
It’s owned by “Big Mike” Schario and his business partner, Mitch Joseph from Canton. If you’ve seen the Love Finds You in Sugarcreek movie, you’ve already met Mike. He’s one of the actors (big guy, red shirt) who threw the stone in the Steintossen “competition” they filmed. What most people don’t know is that Mike lifted all 138 pounds of the real rock (instead of the lighter, pretend one) while nursing several broken ribs he’d sustained just a few days before in a car wreck.
Mike and Mitch run a store that makes me want to just stand and stare. It’s always changing, and it is always filled with things that bring back good memories. Old-fashioned candy I haven’t seen since I was a kid, old board games I played with my cousins on rainy afternoons, bikes I wish I’d had, and some memorabilia they simply won’t part with–like a microphone once used at the Grand Ole Opry.
It’s an old-fashioned business in more ways than just the merchandise they carry. They also use an old non-electric cash register and take cash only. Last I checked, they didn’t bother with Facebook or Twitter. You’ve gotta be careful when you go, though. They’re usually only open on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. The rest of the time they’re scouring the countryside rescuing old items to display in their store.
I love seeing people make a living doing what they love–and if you ever get a chance to meet Mike or Mitch–you’ll meet two guys who are doing exactly that.