Write Your Own Column: Dandy for eating, not growing

By By Evelyn R. Smith
For the Sunday Gazette-Mail

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — I was a toddler when I began to tag along with my mom at “green pickin’ time” in the spring. I’m still at it.

So, on a warm sunny afternoon last month, my husband Ted and I went green pickin’ along the banks of Elk River. Young dandelions were profuse, and by carefully removing only the tender middle leaves, we left the rest of each plant intact.

After cleaning with several rinses of water, they are now in our freezer awaiting some good eatin’ later on.

I was reminded of the time I tried to grow dandelions on my deck at our home in Thousand Oaks, South Charleston.

I saw a packet of dandelion seed at Green’s Feed & Seed. Showing it to Ted, I said I wanted to raise an early crop of dandelions on my deck for the next spring.

He was busy with something else and muttered an “Uh-huh.” So, I bought the seeds.

I then prepared a large, 22-gallon tub with the best soil money could buy. And having what I thought was a brilliant idea, I filled the bottom half of the tub with Styrofoam “peanuts.” They would provide a large drainage area in the bottom, and the tub would be lighter for Ted to move around on the deck — a necessity if the plants were to get the sun needed for them to grow.

Once the expensive soil was in place on top of the Styrofoam, I very carefully planted the precious little seeds.

Then I sat back and waited for them to grow.

Earlier, Ted had hired Susan Bryant, the gal who manages Valley Nursery, to maintain our yard. When she came the following Tuesday, she was surprised to see a tub full of dirt on my deck.

“I’m raising dandelions,” I said.

“You’re raising dandelions on your deck?” she asked. “Weeds?”

“Yes,” I replied, “dandelion greens.”

Susan seemed to be having trouble believing it.

“You’ve hired me to keep weeds out of your lawn, and here you are, growing them on your deck?”

“Well, you see, it’s this way,” I began as a way of explanation. “I saw the seeds for sale, and I wanted fresh dandelion greens early next spring. These will winter just fine and I’ll be eating dandelions by March.”

Susan just shook her head.

Little green plants soon appeared. That was in September. In October it began to rain every day. Within a week water had apparently collected deep enough in the bottom of the tub to float some of the little white foam peanuts topside. Susan, looking at my pot on her next visit, noted, “Your little weeds don’t look so good, and what are all those little white thingies all over the top?”

I explained. Again, Susan just shook her head.

It continued to pour down rain. I tried to siphon the water from the bottom of the tub, but the siphon tube clogged.

In a few more days, the water had filled the tub almost to the brim, and all the little dandelions were lying on their sides underneath about three inches of water — dead.

A tear ran down my cheek as I beheld them.

Ted had joined us on the deck when Susan came the next time.

She said, “Ted, Evelyn doesn’t have a green thumb — she can’t even grow weeds. Do you want me to throw it all away and clean out the tub?”

Ted, eyeing the 3-inch-deep water on top of the soil, replied, “No, I think maybe we can grow rice in it.”

That’s why we headed out to Coonskin Park last month to pick dandelions. Ted won’t let me grow them on my deck anymore.

Evelyn Smith is a resident of Edgewood Summit and an active writer. She can be reached via email at erstrs@aol.com.

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