Post 70: Fighting the Power (with Dandelions)

I hope I’m allowed to echo the slogan/chant/battle cry Fight the Power, even though I’m an old white lady and this refrain emerged from decades of Black energy, music, protest, and vulnerability. There is still a power that needs to be fought, and its domain has, over time, expanded rather than narrowed. Governments, corporations, and certain celebrated tycoons have come to rule over you and me—over almost everyone with a smidgen of money to spend. These days, I’m grateful for the musicians, organizers, writers of lyrics, sign-carriers, risk-takers, dancers, filmmakers, and all those who said (and still say) it loudly: Fight the Power. I could have joined in—I was in my mid-thirties when the Public Enemy song came out—but I was clueless back then. These days I can really only say “Thank you” and “Forgive me,” and work on fighting the power in some way myself.

I happen to have fallen into a different way of fighting. I fight using dandelions. Not by seeding them in the lawns of the powerful (though that would be fun, wouldn’t it?), but by eating them. I now understand that consuming stuff—whether it be technology, home improvement, fashion, bling, or processed food—feeds the Power. Well, for the most part, I don’t have to buy those things. Especially this year.

This winter my desert backyard has had ample sunshine, rain and even snow.  In the fall I had planted spinach, chard, kale, snow peas, lambs’ quarter, parsley, cilantro, dill, and arugula. Saved seeds, seeds from packages, seeds from our library seed banks. They all happily sprouted. But I soon lost them under the even happier weeds.

Spinach plant visible under the leaves od other plants
Spinach plant hiding under dandelion, lamb’s quarters, and cilantro.

The weeds I usually get here are wild mustard, cheeseweed, grass, and dandelion. All of them are edible—even the grass. (Did you know that the concentration camps in World War II didn’t have grass, because the prisoners ate it all? OMG.) I don’t eat my grass volunteers—the other weeds are tastier—but sometimes I pick it for the chickens, who slurp it down to the roots like strands of green spaghetti.

Young dandelion plant
Young, tender dandelion plant.

The dandelions are my most profuse weeds, though. I’ve known for a long time they were edible—who hasn’t heard of dandelion wine, or dandelion tea? But the first time I sampled a leaf, it tasted horribly bitter. We associate bitterness with toxicity, but more recently I’ve I read that much of our human ancestors’ diet was actually quite bitter. So I decided that if I was going to take full advantage of edible plants, I’d have to tolerate it to some degree. (Not everyone even tastes the bitterness in foods, but I sure do.) So I tried another leaf. It was from a younger dandelion plant and had no bitter taste at all. (There are also tricks to minimize the bitterness of more mature plants.)

Mature dandelion plant with fuzzies
A dandelion at this stage is for blowing on—for eating, not so much.

Though there were “legitimate” garden greens under the weeds—I could see them down there if I pulled the taller growth back–it seemed most sensible to pick what was on top—it was just as edible. That was mostly dandelions. After I’d eaten most of the burgeoning weeds, the “proper veg” would have more sunlight and more room to grow.

Our two chickens were back to laying eggs—following a hiatus when the third member of their party tragically died of an unknown weakness—and we were making a lot of egg dishes. I decided to try making an omelet with dandelions. I picked an entire armload of them, knowing that after I removed the roots and stiff stem parts I’d have a much smaller pile. And then they’d cook down to an even smaller percentage of their original bulk—an omelet’s worth, if I had guessed correctly.

Well, Terry said it was the best omelet he’d ever had. You should know that most of the meals we cook get called “the best one you’ve made so far,” but the compliment still means something to the cook. This is how I made it:

Rebel Hack 3: Kay’s Dandelion Omelet

Pull up about a dozen large dandelion plants by the roots—carefully, if other green goodies are growing next to them. (Don’t eat a dandelion or other weed unless you’re sure of its identity.) Harvest an armload in a large basket or bowl.

A small pile of dandelion plants pulled from the ground with roots showing
An omelet’s worth of dandelion leaves.

Cut off the roots and remove the stiff stalks—some of my biggest dandelions, at the base, had the diameter of a dime—and rinse the leaves, spreading them on a clean cloth to drip dry. Chop up half an onion and a handful of garlic cloves, and sauté them in about half a cup of olive oil, adding some butter for taste if desired. Add a cup or two of your favorite fresh mushrooms. When all of this has softened, throw the leaves on top. You should have a domed pile on the pan, and will seem there are far too many of the greens, but you’ll see them shrink down to their essence in just a few minutes. While they’re cooking, break three or four eggs into a bowl and beat madly with a fork to mix whites and yolks.

The next step might strike you as a bit odd for an omelet, but it works for me. When the mixture of onions, garlic, and mushrooms has softened, I push it into half the pan and pour the eggs into the other half. After a minute or so, I flip the green mix onto the egg. Usually a fair amount of still-liquid egg will run out and fill the pan where the greens were, congealing completely.  I then flip this half-circle, mostly egg, onto its other half. The final half-circle, a sort of egg-dandelion sandwich, can be cut into halves or thirds or even fourths, depending on whether it’s a featured dish and how many people you want to serve.

Sprinkle with salt and pepper or favorite herb. You could grate or slice cheese on top, but this dish had so much flavor it didn’t need that.


But how, you’ll want to know, does this private act of weeding and eating “fight the power”?

It doesn’t matter much, really. Unless you move on to using cheeseweed and wild mustard—know what they look like!—and then to the expansion of your guest list. (Whether you mention the weedy greens before, during, or after they’ve eaten the omelet is up to you!) If all your friends, and then their friends, were able to find independence from the wrongs of our corporate food system—you don’t still need me to name them, do you?—that destructive system would feel the hit in their profits. They would have to change. Imagine it!

People tell me this will never happen. In the U.S., anyway. Americans have their routines and their attachments—certainly when it comes to food. This country is moving toward food kits, delivered meals, microwaved instafood, cafes and restaurants. Nobody seems to want to want to harvest and chop and cook. On the other hand, I hate doing nothing with my hands while watching a movie, or sitting around idly when people come to visit, or talking on the phone—just holding it—when I have this wonderful thing called speakerphone that frees up my hands for meal prep or whatever. No time is “lost.”

But maybe other people aren’t like that. Maybe as modern humans we’re headed in the wrong direction.

To fix the scary parts of our future, we still have politics, street demonstrations, outspoken science, and songs with powerful lyrics Well—all of that is critical. But there’s something missing. A few things.

Like flavors undreamed of. Compliments on your cooking—it’s a rarely experienced freshness. Delicious vitamins—no pills to buy or choke on. Lowered risk of diabetes and obesity, along with hundreds of other health problems. Clear air instead of methane skies. Testing negative for pesticides in bodily tissues. Lakes and rivers without the thick, green carpet of algae caused by fertilizer bloom. Much-diminished fears of fires, floods, and droughts. Last but not least, your garden will eventually be pretty and weed-free!

No single dandelion omelet will save humanity. It needs to be a larger practice. Even one regarded by some as Un-American. But it doesn’t have to be radical at all. You can forget any intention of a political, personal “boycott” that’s supposed to change the world. Do it for yourself and those you feed—for the dark-green super-nutrition, the reputation and gratitude you’ll enjoy for what others have forgotten how to do, for the sunlight and soil contact that will make you healthier, and for your strong, confident new identity.

And if you invent a tasty new dish made from an edible weed you’ve discovered, please send me the recipe!

6 thoughts on “Post 70: Fighting the Power (with Dandelions)

  1. Kay, I love this entry! Dandelions are one of the rare edible wild plants we can enjoy on the East side of the country as well. We have them growing wild all over the yard, and I’ve experienced that “magic” of piling dandelion greens in a pan and having them disintegrate to a small pile of nutritious green, delish. Bitter is better (for me personally) but I know tasting the tender young greens appeals more to some of the youngsters. I can feel the vitamins and nutrients coursing through my blood stream. I enjoyed your angle of dandelion greens ingestion also being a way of small demonstration of independence from corporate greed. Thank you.


  2. I enjoyed this column! It provoked two thoughts:

    Growing up in suburban NY in the 1950s, I’d hear stories about the Italian Grandmas going down along the Bronx River Parkway to harvest dandelions to supplement what they grew in their gardens. It would be lovely if the county would stop mowing and instead seed with native plants and teach people how to use the edible ones!

    In Tucson, so many yards around ours have been scraped and sprayed with herbicides that what grows in our yard is soon consumed by what wildlife is left. Sigh.


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