This is a vintage post, but seasonally appropriate and lots of fun. Don’t spray toxins on your lawn… let those dandelions grow au naturel! The beautiful golden color and early summer fragrance of dandelions attracts bees, providing life sustaining nectar this time of year. Bees are HUNGRY in May and June, and if we want them around to pollinate our fruit orchards and vegetable gardens later in the season, we had better provide them with something to eat right now.
Everyone on my Christmas list is getting a jar this December… this recipe is that fabulous. Before we get to the recipe, I should explain a few things. First, I am a big believer in letting my lawn grow au naturel. Rain from the sky and an occasional mow pretty much sum up my approach to lawn care, to the chagrin of a few of my neighbors. This means, of course, that I am blessed with a brilliant display of yellow dandelions this time a year. Weeds, did you say? No Way!
Dandelions were imported into the US hundreds of years ago as a nutritious food source. Dandelions are wildly good for you, rivaling carrots and spinach in their Vitamin A, Vitamin B12, Vitamin C, Calcium, Iron, and Phosphorus. The entire plant is edible, but today we are focusing on the pretty yellow flower heads. A quick web search will reveal how dandelion flowers are valued for their antioxidants, their diuretic and antibacterial properties, and their use by herbalists in treating everything from headaches and depression to stomach and menstrual cramps. Dandelions aren’t weeds… they’re nature’s own grocery store and pharmacy!
Today we are making dandelion “honey.” The taste is spot-on identical to wild honey, without the hefty price tag. At about 50 cents a pint (for the sugar and pectin), this “honey” is a real bargain. It’s vegan, has practically the same glycemic index as honey, and contains pollen (which is where many of the purported health benefits of bee honey originate). Make sure you pick dandelions from an unsprayed location! Allow yourself about an hour in the sunshine to harvest enough flower heads for this recipe.
8 cups dandelion flower heads (cut just above the base of the flower head, to get all of the yellow and almost none of the green)
8 cups boiling water
6 cups white sugar
Juice from 1/2 large lemon OR Juice from 1 whole, large orange
4 tablespoons pectin powder
Step 1) Cover dandelion flower heads with boiling water. Cover and set aside for at least three hours or overnight.
Step 2) Carefully pour the mixture through a fine mesh sieve, saving the “tea” and discarding the flower petals.
Step 3) Bring 6 cups of dandelion tea to a boil in a large pot (if you have more than 6 cups of tea, you can freeze the excess).
Step 4) Stir pectin into sugar (the pectin will dissolve more readily this way). Add pectin/sugar mixture all at once to pot of boiling tea. Add lemon juice or orange juice as well.
Step 6) Bring mixture to a full rolling boil. Boil for 3 minutes with stirring, then turn off heat.
Step 7) Follow canning instructions to preserve your dandelion “honey.” Leave 1/2 inch headspace, and process jars in boiling water bath for 10 minutes.