How we change when we understand more about the world!
I have a chuckle when I remember weeding dandelions out of the lawn when we lived in Ballarat. That cooler climate gave me a colourful, bee haven for a lawn, with English Bellis daisies, white clover creating swathes of colour and food. Food for bees that is!
I didn’t even think back then which was 35 years ago, that one day I’d be cultivating some of the weeds I was trying so hard to get rid of. So, with that in mind and a shelf in the pantry with a half dozen jars of golden Dandelion Jelly in repose on them, I thought I’d encourage you to cultivate those weeds and enjoy the benefits.
Dandelion – really?
That dense and dark green ween that grows in your grass or by the path as you take your walk is not to be confused with Flat Weed which I don’t eat. See my article ‘Are You Eating the Right Foraged Herb?? on how to tell the difference between Flat weed and Dandelion.
Dandelions have been eaten as a salad leaf, cooked into casseroles and stews, and have been sipped in their dried form as a tea for centuries. Its known as a kidney tonic, causing a diuretic effect, and a ‘giver’ of potassium to the diet. The roasted root is also recorded way back into antiquity as being used to treat gall bladder and liver complaints.
A child’s garden of dandelions
The root is made into a roasted coffee substitute. (I love my Dandy Chai!) But it was the flower heads that I would search out as a child, plucking the hollow fluffy stem, and blowing the head to disperse the seed, watching as the little achenes, as I now know they are called, float across the garden. We were sure as children, that the number of blows it took to blow off all the seed was the correct time of day. It was more likely that that was the number of hours dad would spend the next season, removing the dandelion weeds from his garden beds.
Growing your own
Now with my own organic garden, I love this plant. I grew it so that I could make dandelion root tea, dandelion cordial and dandelion jelly. However, I’ve found the late spring and summer flowering a bit too spasmodic here in the subtropics to be able to collect a lot of flowers all at once. So, I pick every day or two. laboriously removing the green sepals from the back of the flower, and I freeze them until I have enough to use. It takes me a few months to gather what I need. But, a packed cup of fresh or frozen flowers is all you need to make the Dandelion Jelly in the recipe below.
I served this to the ladies who attended a recent Herb Gardens Class here at Ecobotanica and it was very warmly embraced as a delicious jelly. Its so easy to make, that even your 10 year old chef could whip it up. Now that’s an idea.
And by the way, to grow dandelions- ask a friend who is trying to get rid of dandelions to post you a few dried heads. It’s cheaper than buying seed isn’t it? All you need then is a patch of freshly cultivated soft soil in full sun and a head of dry dandelions. Blow the seed into the patch of soil, smooth it over with your hands and water to keep it damp. In no time you’ll have a dandelion patch of your own.
Here’s my recipe, for dandelion jelly. I hope you enjoy making your own.
To trim the heads, either pull off the stems and green parts or trim them off with a pair of scissors. It’s just the petals you want to keep.
This recipe makes 4-5 cups jelly
You’ll need to sterilised glass heatproof jars and lids before you start n the jelly. I wash them boil them for 10 minutes.
3 cups dandelion flower petals
4 ½ cups white sugar
2 tablespoons lemon or lime juice
30 grams pectin eg jamsetta (available from supermarkets)
Make a strong tea using 3 cups water and 1 cup of firmly packed dandelion petals. Allow the flowers to steep until cool, then strain and press the tea from the petals. Discard the petals.
Put a saucer into the freezer. Start on the jelly. Put the 3 cups of tea into a large saucepan with the lemon or lime juice plus the pectin/jamsetta. Bring to the boil and turn down the heat to simmer for 5 minutes.
Add the sugar, stir and then bring to the boil once again. Boil for 5-6 minutes.
To test if it’s ready, take the saucer from the freezer and drip onto it, half a teaspoon of the hot jelly. Wait about 1 minute for the jelly to cool then push your finger into the jelly. If it wrinkles when you push it with your finger, the jelly is at setting point and is ready to bottle.
Pour into sterilised and warm jars, leaving a gap at the top of the jar of about 1.5 cm for expansion.
Seal tightly. This jelly keeps on the pantry shelf as per any other jam.
Serve with toast, scones or on desserts.