Appalachian Food Christmas

Dandelion Salad for Christmas

christmas decorations

“I guess the most unusual item was the dandelion salad. In the fall, about October when things died down, we would get dandelion roots and put them in a box that had a little soil in the bottom so the roots could adhere. Then we’d go out in the woods and pull the leaves aside and get that soft rich wood pummy soil and put about eight to ten inches of that over the top of those roots, and put that box down in the cellar in a dark place. About a month before Christmas, we’d bring that box out and put it in a nice warm sunny window and begin watering those roots, and they’d shoot up through that pummy soil. The reason for having it so deep is that you want the dandelion leaves to be as long as you can get them. They come up yellow until they get out of the soil to the light, and then they turn green, but what you want mostly is those yellow leaves, and the longer they are, the more tender they are. We liked them in six- to eight-inch yellow spikes with little tips of green on top.

To prepare them for the meal, we would wash those leaves and chop them in bite sizes and put them in our bowl, and then we took a half cup of apple cider vinegar, a half cup of water, a good tablespoon of sugar, a teaspoon of salt, and we’d mix that all thoroughly so that the salt and the sugar was all melted. Then we got about three spoonfuls of good ham grease from where we’d fried out our ham, and we took this liquid and poured it all in our hot skillet. While it was still hot, we poured it over the dandelions. If we had some green onions, we especially liked to put a few of them in there. And that made a salad that we thought was great!

If we didn’t pull the whole plant up to get the leaves, we’d let the roots stay in that box and keep sprouting them and we’d have several messes after Christmas. They’ll come up in a second and a third time.”

—Lyndall “Granny” Toothman – “A Foxfire Christmas”


Growing dandelions for Christmas! Have you ever heard the beat! Makes me want to be industrious and try it myself next year.


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  • Reply
    June 30, 2021 at 12:39 am

    I grew up with endive salad. It was made with the same ingredients as this recipe. It is delicious. Years ago, my dad told me his grandma made the salad with dandelions. She had a special fenced in yard on her farm for dandelions.

  • Reply
    December 11, 2019 at 1:32 am

    I’ve never had it myself, but I’ve heard of people eating it.

  • Reply
    December 10, 2019 at 9:38 pm

    My Mom was from Bermuda and we grew up in NE PA… Her dandelion salad comprised of us’n’s going out to the yard and picking the green leaves off of them… a couple mentioned that the greens were bitter / tart…that’s putting it mildly to a bunch of young boys…Just awful tasting… soon as I saw the title…50 years re-wound in my mind…to those spring days growing up on the orchard… As always Tipper…thanks for the trip down memory lane…!

  • Reply
    December 10, 2019 at 6:51 pm

    To me, the best part of dandelion salad is the BACON. And as for dandelion wine… I know that only the petals are used, not the green parts, else it’s too tart/sour. I don’t have the patience to make it, let alone wait a year to let it age.

  • Reply
    December 10, 2019 at 11:26 am

    Y’all’s Dandelions must be different from Texas dandelions! Ours have thorns and are tough as all get out! – even the young ones! They still make the fairy wish balls but as for eating they are just no good!

  • Reply
    Sue McIntyre
    December 9, 2019 at 9:56 pm

    Creasy salad (water cress) and green onions with hot grease gravy (fat from salt pork), and fresh pone of cornbread. Yum yum!!! Grew up on bottom land in North Georgia. Thanks for stirring up my memory!

  • Reply
    December 9, 2019 at 7:33 pm

    This sounds like an amazing salad.

  • Reply
    Bill Burnett
    December 9, 2019 at 6:37 pm

    I have eaten “Kilt Lettuce (Branch, Leaf & Water Cress) with Green Onions or Ramps when in season”all my life and love it but have never tried it with Dandelions but Lord willing I may have enough Dandelions come spring to try this as it sounds similar.

  • Reply
    libby rouse
    December 9, 2019 at 4:06 pm

    Oh my goodness, I have never even heard of dandelion salad. So interesting h ow our ancestors in the olden days, had to be so innovative to feed their families!

  • Reply
    December 9, 2019 at 1:15 pm

    I have to say Tipper, I have never tried this but I have heard of it. Hm..

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    December 9, 2019 at 12:25 pm

    I never heard of Dandlelions used as a Salad, nor did I know about the Foxfire Books when I was growing up. If it hadn’t been for You reading excerpts from the Foxfire Books, I might never have known many of the things you explained. …Ken

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    December 9, 2019 at 11:24 am

    When I was a kid my mother would send me to the woods to collect “stump dirt”. It was what was left of hardwood stumps that had rotted away. If the tree had been hollow before it was cut or fell, the center of the stump would be full of the richest darkest soil you can imagine. Mommy used it to root and/or pot her indoor flowers some of which she kept through the winter and replanted in the spring. Stump dirt is probably the same type material as the “pummy” soiled mentioned in the article.
    I have three big piles of wood chips that I asked a tree trimming outfit to drop in my upper yard two years ago. They are half the size they originally were and when I dig into them they are black inside. In a couple more years I’m gonna have about 15 yards of stump dirt, pummy soil or whatever you want to call it. I call it black gold!

  • Reply
    December 9, 2019 at 10:34 am

    I too have heard of dandelion salad, especially in Northern Illinois, but we never picked them or grew them. My Mother canned green beans with almost the same recipe the author said they used on the dandelion salad and that combination of vinegar, sugar, salt, water and a smidge of ham grease made the most delicious canned or fresh green beans I have ever tasted. I’ve also never heard the word pummy soil, but I thought maybe it meant loam soil which is an excellent medium for growing plants. Recently, I picked up a magazine that had illustrations in it showing how to take a small box only about 3 inches deep and planting edibles in like rosemary, basil, and parsley to enjoy all winter. Looks like our Appalachian ancestors were doing this back in the 1800’s.

  • Reply
    December 9, 2019 at 10:20 am

    I’d love to know about “pummy” – is that one of the vocabulary words, Tipper?

  • Reply
    December 9, 2019 at 9:37 am

    The salad sounds good, especially for Christmas dinner. It amazes me how folks planned and worked on preserving food they wanted to eat after growing season. Who would have though about forcing dandelions to continue growing in the manner Lyndall’s family did.

  • Reply
    December 9, 2019 at 9:16 am

    I wish I had known about that, because I love keeping Summer around as long as possible. I still have kale growing. Once tried to grow Longkeeper tomatoes, but cannot remember how that worked. We must have ate them before seeing if they would keep.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    December 9, 2019 at 8:46 am

    Never known of anybody doing this and though I have the book “A Foxfire Christmas” I did not recall that excerpt being in it.

    I have read somewhere, perhaps in a book entitled “Edible Wild Plants of Eastern North America” (if I recall it correctly) that poke roots can be sprouted through the winter just as described. Like you, Tipper, I have long wanted to try it. I have plenty of poke root here but no south-facing windows.

  • Reply
    aw griff
    December 9, 2019 at 8:39 am

    That sounds really good and just learned a new word. Never heard PUMMY before.
    I’ve ate dandelion greens in small amounts and they are really bitter. If you pick them in early spring when they first come up they aren’t as bad. The roots are hard to get all of them out of the ground. They have a long tap root. Last spring I removed many dandelion roots where I wanted my green onions and if the root broke off, even though it was several inches down, it came back up. For herbal medicine I’ve taken the lazy way out and just buy the ground up root in capsules..
    Noticed while saying the word dande-lion that I say dandle-lion. My good Wife did too. Wondering if anybody else calls them dandlelions?

  • Reply
    Gayle Larson
    December 9, 2019 at 8:27 am

    My Mother and Grandmother ate dandelion salad but it was in the spring and they made a hot bacon dressing for it. They called it wilted dandelion salad. I never did try it.

    • Reply
      Melinda Kessler
      December 9, 2019 at 11:17 am

      My husband’s mother ‘(PA Dutch & English heritage, born & raised in central IL) made Dandslion greens so tasty! Besides the dressing described she added a chopped boiled egg & extra sugar.

      It was lots of work to hunt young tender leaves in spring then wash them twice before pouring boiling water over them but she remembered when they were the first fresh vegetables after a long winter.

      My own Grandma made some when I was too young to appreciate all she had to do to put a little mess on the table. She was from Adams County, Ohio in Apalachian foothills.

      Just received the Christmas CD – Can’t wait to play it!

      Thanks, Tipper

  • Reply
    Kathryn Presley
    December 9, 2019 at 8:21 am

    My mother is Italian. In summertime she would pick dandelion leaves out of our yard and make a salad with bacon grease.

  • Reply
    Sanford McKinney Jr
    December 9, 2019 at 7:47 am

    I have heard that some people also make Dandelion Wine. I have never heard the process, but perhaps there are people in your readership that are familiar with Dandelion Wine and might actually comment on experiences with it?

  • Reply
    sheryl paul
    December 9, 2019 at 7:42 am

    I would love to try this! Thanks

  • Reply
    Betty Short
    December 9, 2019 at 7:19 am

    My Mom would do the same recipe but instead of dandelion leaves she used leaf lettuse. It was so good. I really enjoy reading your blog and all the comments from other readers. I also enjoy the music.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    December 9, 2019 at 7:08 am

    Now, that sounds interesting! I’ve used the tops of Dandelions in mixed greens along with some other wild greens like Polk , Dock and a few others whose name I no longer remember, but I’ve never heard of growing and eating the sprouts.
    That would provide fresh vegetables in the winter, something that didn’t happen to often back then. We take fresh greens for granted because we can get them at the grocery any time.
    After my Grandmother died I found a package of greens in her freezer labeled Salat. My Grandfather told me that was mixed, mostly wild, greens.
    Sometimes when I walk in my yard I see the little Dandelions growing and think of my Grandmother.

  • Reply
    marshall reagan
    December 9, 2019 at 6:22 am

    I am sure that if my mom had read about it she would have tried growing them it sounds like it would be good.

  • Reply
    Don Byers
    December 9, 2019 at 6:09 am

    Very interesting! I have heard about dandelion salad all my life…but have never had it.

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