After our seedling sale, the remainder of this long weekend included a lot of relaxing...tending to the garden...visiting with friends...and a chance to harvest dandelions. We have a variety of good friends who are urban wildcrafting enthusiasts, and with one family in particular we've gotten together throughout the season to harvest mulberries, service berries, cherries, and now, dandelions. It was a great activity for the kids, and, since we were harvesting in a nearby park, there was also the chance to run and play in between the harvest. As with any wildcrafting, it's important to know the area you are harvesting has not been chemically sprayed; is fairly well removed from a dog walking zone, roadways or other sources of pollution/contamination; and is not in danger of being over-harvested. It's wise to take no more than 1/3 of the wild plants in one area, although with dandelions it really didn't look like we made much of a dent, even after picking for almost an hour! Oh yes, and if you find any dandelions that have gone to seed, make sure to send them off into the wind to populate the landscape with this wonderful, healthful wild weed.
I was inspired by the rhubarb and blueberry syrups that had been used to serve natural fruit spritzers at our seedling sale, so I tried making a dandelion syrup - delicious! I also boiled down half my collection to make dandelion jelly, also something I have read is subtle and tasty. It comes out a faint golden colour, beautiful. Here's the recipe:
2 cups fresh clean dry dandelion, just the yellow petals cut off the heads
8 cups water
8 cups sugar
2 Tbsp lemon juice
Bring dandelions, water and sugar to a boil. Let simmer for 15 minutes. Strain well. Then bottle in glass jars or bottles. Store in refrigerator until use. For use, take 1/4 cup syrup per glass, top with sparkling water, then add lemon slices, lime slices, fresh berries, ice cubes, or mint sprigs as garnish.
2 cups fresh clean dandelion, just the yellow petals cut off the heads (no green stems or leaves)
6 cups water
6 cups sugar
juice of one lemon (about 2 Tbsp)
8 tsp pectin
Bring dandelions, lemon and water to a boil. Then remove from heat and let steep for at least one hour. Reheat, add sugar and bring to a boil again. Let boil for 10-15 minutes. Strain well to remove all petals.
Add pectin and bring to a boil again, for about 10 minutes. Ladle into clean hot sterilized jars and top with hot, sterilized lids. Process in hot water bath canner according to regular jelly making directions (generally this is canning the jelly jars for 5-10 minutes at a rolling boil to ensure that lids seal).
Makes about 18 x 125 ml jars of jelly. Beautiful gifts, for the perfect taste of summer in the midst of the winter season...