In 1978 Cora Chase of Vaughn published “The Weed Eater’s Cookbook.”
Born in 1898 at Kamilche, home to the Squaxin Indian Tribe, her grandparents taught her about living off the land. She later wrote about her experiences in “The Oyster Was Our World” (1976). She married in 1916, raised three sons, and followed her eldest to the University of Washington where she graduated in 1982 at the age of 83.
“Sometimes I think I lived my life backwards, having a career (she worked in social services) and raising a family first, then going to school,” she said in an interview.
She got divorced and in 1946 married Corwin Chase, a self-educated mountaineer and artist best known for his woodblock prints, who had spent four years living in a teepee with his brother on Mount Rainier.
The couple moved to Vaughn after retirement and spent time kayaking, hiking and gardening.
Cora died in 1983. Her granddaughter, Waneen Cormier Post-Marks, now lives in the family home. The recipes and excerpts from the cookbook, no longer in print, are published here with her permission.
In her preface, Cora wrote:
People who eat weeds and live to tell about it may be dubbed “weedy characters,” as were my husband and I when I was featured in our local paper. The connotations of weedy are not flattering, so this work is an effort to demonstrate that one can be elegant though weedy. We have dined on weeds by candlelight from our best dishes and our most colorful mats, feeling the inner glow of true aristocrats.
We still have a garden because this is the best source of weeds, as any gardener can tell you. We allow a reasonable number of the best to grow among the vegetables and harvest chickweed, sorrel, dandelions and lamb’s quarters when young and tender.
Weeds do not come pan-ready. A few precautions help, such as taking a basket with divisions – just paper bags cut down, so that the clean weeds are not mixed with those with roots and soil attached. It is of utmost importance to know your weeds. Never guess.
Weed eating is at its best in April. By taking a basket and scissors on a weed walk, one can gather enough of these plants in a short time for a salad as well as a cooked meal. Weeds wilt quickly. They must be kept cool and moist and used as soon as possible.
1 medium onion, chopped
3 tablespoons oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice or vinegar
1 quart dandelion leaves (young and tender)
1 cup dandelion blossoms, cut with scissors
Heat oil in saucepan and sauté onion. Add vinegar. Mix well and pour over greens. Add herbs (chervil or basil). Add blossoms, toss and cover with paprika.
1 quart dandelion leaves
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup water
3 tablespoons lemon juice
½ teaspoon basil
2 cups cooked spaghetti
Cook leaves in salted water until tender. Drain. Add 1 cup cold water and place in blender until smooth. Add cooked pasta and heat in saucepan. Add herbs, butter, lemon, and serve.
Dandelion Roots for Coffee
Dig roots, wash well but do not peel. Slice thin and roast in oven at 325 until brown and crisp. Store in paper bags until ready to uses. Grind fine and use one tablespoon per cup of cold water. Bring to boil and simmer for a few moments. Strain and serve.
Sautéed Dandelion Flowers
3 cups dandelion flowers
3 tablespoons flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 egg beaten
½ cup milk
Stir salt and baking powder into flour. Mix egg and milk. Add to flour mixture. Stir in flowers carefully. Sauté by spoonful in hot oil until brown, turning as needed.
1½ quarts dandelion leaves
2 cups water
1 ½ cups flour
2 teaspoon baking powder
1 egg 1 teaspoon salt
Cook leaves until tender. Drain. Place in blender with 1 cup cold water, flour, baking powder, salt and egg. Blend until smooth. Heat iron skillet with oil. Pour mixture onto pan in small cakes, cook well and turn to brown on both sides. Serve with jam or syrup for breakfast, or use to supplement a lunch or supper.
1 quart chopped dandelion leaves
1 clove garlic
2 tablespoons flour
¾ cup milk
½ cup yogurt or sour cream
Cook leaves in water until tender. Drain. Sauté minced garlic in margarine, stir in flour, then milk and cook until thickened. Stir in egg and yogurt or sour cream, pour over greens and serve.
Dandelions au Gratin
1 quart cut up dandelion leaves
1 teaspoon salt
⅔ cup grated brick cheese
1 cup bread crumbs
Cook leaves in 1 cup of water. Drain and mix with beaten egg. Place half in casserole, sprinkle with half of the bread crumbs, salt and cheese. Repeat. Bake 15 minutes in a 325 degree oven or until cheese is browned.
Dandelion Buds Omelet
Gather 1 quart dandelion buds. Cover with water, boil until tender and drain well. Make omelet in the usual way, adding buds before folding.
UNDERWRITTEN BY NEWSMATCH/MIAMI FOUNDATION, THE ANGEL GUILD, ROTARY CLUB OF GIG HARBOR, ADVERTISERS, DONORS AND PEOPLE WHO SUPPORT LOCAL, INDEPENDENT NONPROFIT NEWS