Picking dandelions early Saturday morning in your front yard is the sort of civic activity that gets you noticed. Joggers huff and puff down the sidewalk and momentarily crane sweaty necks to see what you're up to. Neighbors walking dogs stop to talk in a disguised attempt to figure out what the hell you're doing now, all the while wondering, Is he finally getting ready to mow his freakin' junkshow of a lawn? Baby-strollers hurry past—that's where those crazy people live...
Actually, in all honesty my neighbor Mike, a scientist getting ready to head off to the Arctic for three weeks to continue studying our doom, wandered over with Daisy (the poodle) to see what my daughter was shrieking about. (She'd found a slug.) Mike even plucked a dandy for me and gave it an expert twist to release the golden petals. He's fairly forgiving of our lack of lawnmowing. Looking at our neighbor's lawn and then ours, he said, "I always figured that was the fairway and this was the rough." Rough is right. When I suggested there was something disturbing about the mania for weeding one of the most nutritious plants on the planet, he warily agreed (he's a climate scientist after all!). People are crazy.
Then I paused for a while to watch a spotted towhee singing in the top of our hawthhorn tree. He's a randy towhee for sure, and I hope he sticks around to raise a brood.
Anyway, the correct way to harvest dandelion petals is to pick them in the morning while they're still closed and twist the petals away from the rest of the green flower head. A robust crop of flowers can give you a couple cups' worth of petals in no time. Just watch out for any unwanted hitchhikers.
It's peak dandelion petal time in Seattle. This is the time of year I make Dandy Bread, a favorite of the kids. After reading Molly (Orangette) Wizenberg's wonderful new book, A Homemade Life, I took her advice and bought a simple oven thermometer that hangs from the rack. Loe and behold: Our oven was off by a cool 25 degrees! But I don't think this is why my recipe posted last year (based on a Peter Gail recipe) seems to be a little too moist, so I've edited the original to a "scant 1 1/2 cups milk." In other words, not quite a cup and a half. Otherwise it's still easy and delicious, and a great way to make use of those nutrient-packed dandelion heads blooming all over town like an army of self-satisfied Cheshire cats.