The Antes Garden
Bill and Jacquelyn Daley
While winter may have endured for an unusually long time, the sun’s northward progression finally brought spring like weather to the Goschenhoppen region. Taking advantage of the warming temperatures we were able to get the first onion sets in the ground and plant the first lettuce and radish crops. While digging one of the beds we noticed a large quantity of very delicate, bright red, Orach seedlings. We commented on such self-seeding in the February Newsletter, nothing that, particularly with very fine seeds like Orach, turning the soil tends to bury the seeds too deeply, preventing germination. This year the seedlings arrived before we dug and we were able to forego turning that area of the bed and should have a large number of young Orach seedlings to transplant wherever we want.
A Pennsylvania Dutch tradition is the custom of eating Dandelion leaves on Griener Dunnerschdaag (Green Thursday, or Maundy Thursday), the day before Good Friday. It was believed that if the greens were eaten on that day one would be healthy throughout the following year. Unfortunately, the double whammy of a very late spring and an early Easter conspired this year to make dandelions almost totally absent at the correct time. Regardless of timing though, dandelion greens make a tasty and healthful salad when harvested and prepared correctly. Most commonly, dandelion greens are served with a hot bacon dressing. For those unfamiliar with this treatment, a favorite recipe is included at the end of the article.
While consumption of dandelion greens may not protect you for an entire year, the greens do have very high levels of Vitamins A, C, and B-12, and significant quantities of calcium, iron, and various antioxidants. Taxonomically, Taraxacum officinale the English name – Dandelion – is a corruption of the French, “dent de lion,” or lion’s tooth, referring to the coarsely toothed and pointed leaves’ resemblance to the same. Local Dutch names for dandelion, Bedseede, and Pissabett, among others, clearly allude to the plant’s slight tendency to induce urination, which may be magnified in children. The leaves should be picked while still young and before the flower heads appear. As the plant matures the leaves tend to become more bitter. If at any time you find them too bitter, it can be greatly diminished by first rinsing the greens in salted water.
The thrifty Dutch let nothing go to waste, however. Once the plants bloom and the leaves become bitter, the flowers are used to make Dandelion Wine, a drink that has inspired songwriters and authors alike. Again, for those of an adventuresome spirit, a recipe is included below. Both of these recipes have been taken from The Landis Valley Cookbook: Pennsylvania German Foods & Traditions. It should be noted that the proper time for fermentation and clarification of the wine leaves it eminently suitable for drinking around the next Christmas and New Year holiday season. A perfect time to enjoy the fruits of your springtime labors while contemplating the next recurrence of the cycle of rebirth and renewal.
We are back working in the Antes kitchen garden on a regular basis and would love to have more folks come out to join us, if for no other reason than to see what’s going on and chat awhile. We certainly wouldn’t object if you wanted to pick a weed or two while you’re there. Come out on Tuesday evenings or contact us at
Bill and Jacquelyn Daley
The Goschenhoppen Historians