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in praise of the dandelion

 
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Well, I'm quite impressed with my dandelion syrup.  The recipe was entitled 'vegan dandelion honey' but it didn't taste like honey at all to me.  I thought it was just as nice as elderflower cordial, and am hoping to make some more whilst the flowers are plentiful.  I'm thinking of putting some flowers in a lemon drizzle cake recipe and topping with the syrup.
 
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In dandelion territory, I bet there isn't even one kid that hasn't blown the fluff off dandelions or presented their mother or other female caregiver with bouquets of them.

We were outside a lot as kids and we used to pretend to be nomad pioneers, "building" our homes using piles of leaves or sticks for the outlines of the imaginary walls. After the walls, the very next thing we did was make a cookstove out of whatever was lying around, cause ya gotta eat, right?  Guess what our "meals" usually consisted of? Yep, dandelions. We would carefully pull the yellow petals and separate them from the greens. Sometimes we included violets and even grass. We didn't know that those actually were edible back then lol! I remember the milky white juice that was in the stems stained hands for a long time, but we still played with them, enjoying the looks of a curled stem. Poor dandelions lol!

Back then and even now, they are considered pests (and sometimes the kids are too lol) and people fight them feverishly. It's considered somewhat shameful if your yard has an overabundance of them. Consider us shameful because we have a lot of them,


 
Nancy Reading
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Some of the variation in flowers picked yesterday to make syrup.  Flower size and petal quantity varied widely.  Not sure how much the height of the flowers is due to location (not being trodden on) and how much to inherited traits.  Taller stems make them easier to pick.
I'm thinking that humans in the 'western world' must have been selecting for low growing plants that escape the lawnmower for the last hundred yeads,  the opposite of what you want from a food plant.  Anyone interested in dandelion seed from bigger flowered plants?  Perhaps I should start a breeding line 😀
20210516_113907.jpg
[Thumbnail for 20210516_113907.jpg]
 
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Nancy, to make the syrup do you boil the flowers and then add enough sugar to get to a syrup consistency?  You've got me very interested in trying to make some!
 
Nancy Reading
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Hi Greg, no boiling involved (except to make my water safe)
The recipe I used first was from the Homefarmer magazine (June 2017):
Put 2 big handfuls of dandelion flowers in medium bowl (no green bits) add 1 rounded teaspoon citric acid or juice of a lemon (this alters the flavour) cover with water (mine had just been boiled so was hot, but this is not specified in the original recipe). Cover and leave over night to infuse.  Strain into a second pan.  For each 100ml of liquid add 100g of white sugar (or 1 lb per 20 floz?) Bring to boil stirring to dissolve sugar, once dissolved pour jnto warm sterilised bottles and seal.  They say if you pasteurise the syrup it will last unopened for over a year, else it keeps a few weeks in the 'fridge.
I tried a variation of the recipe the second time following the method I use for elderflower cordial.  I have read that tartaric acid helps extract from plant cells, so tried with tartaric acid and adding the sugar before infusing overnight.  The theory being that the sugar will dissolve overnight so less boiling is required.  It worked pretty well, but I prefer the flavour with the citric acid.

I made cake with the sugar soaked petals from the second batch of syrup.  This turned out pretty well for a first attempt.  I used a variation on a pear cake recipe (which also works pretty well with grated Yacon):
Put 6 tbsp dandelion syrup, 3 eggs, 6 Oz melted butter and the sugar infused dandelion petals (I had about 10--12 Oz, but it probably dosen't matter) in one bowl and mix well. Sift 8 Oz SR flour (or plain flour plus baking powder to suit) into another larger bowl with 4 Oz caster sugar and mix .  Add liquid to flour and stir till smooth.  Pour into lined 2 lb loaf tin. Bake at 'top end of hot' (probably 180deg C) for about 1 1/2 hours.
I would describe the cake as 'substantial'.  You could probably reduce the sugar a little further, and then pour over some fresh dandelion petals and dandelion syrup when still warm a la lemin drizzle cake.
 
Greg Martin
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Thank you Nancy!  :)
Will try soon.
 
Nancy Reading
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I tasted some leaves from one of my dandelions today and they were not bitter.

I've nibbled them a few times previously and really couldn't see them passing the husband test ("shall we eat that again?") This time however they are mild enough that I really think I might get away with it! I guess the cool temperatures and short dark days of midwinter have in effect blanched the plant.

midwinter-tasty-self-blanched-dandelion
Midwinter-tasty-dandelion


This is one of the plants that had really large flowers, but the leaves have always been as bitter as any I've tried before, but today they were quite OK.
 
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Nancy Reading wrote:I tasted some leaves from one of my dandelions today and they were not bitter.  I've nibbled them a few times previously and really couldn't see them passing the husband test ("shall we eat that again?")  This time however they are mild enough that I really think I might get away with it!  I guess the cool temperatures and short dark days of midwinter have in effect blanched the plant.



Very true.  I've experienced this before with both dandelion and with mustard greens, which I once seeded in my meadow for soil improvement, and now self-seed every season in wide swatches.  So long as they grow during the cold weather, they stay much milder than you'd expect.
 
Nancy Reading
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I've been wanting to collect dandelion seeds to propagate into my natural farming area to break up the compaction. The flowers are in full spate, but the goldfinches are getting to the seedheads, breaking them open and eating them whilst they are still green...I couldn't get a picture of the birds, they're too quick!
dandelion-flowers-eaten-by-goldfinches.JPG
dandelion-flower-seedheads-eaten-by-goldfinches
dandelion-flower-seedheads-eaten-by-goldfinches
 
Matthew Nistico
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Nancy Reading wrote:I've been wanting to collect dandelion seeds to propagate into my natural farming area to break up the compaction. The flowers are in full spate, but the goldfinches are getting to the seedheads, breaking them open and eating them whilst they are still green...I couldn't get a picture of the birds, they're too quick!



You can buy dandelion seeds at a dozen different internet sites.
 
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When I 1st bought my house 2 decades ago I was so happy that 1 st spring to see dandelions blooming, my yard has enough sun for dandelions! It's a typical pnw yard filled mostly with Douglas fir and a couple ceder and hemlock so having dandelions grow in the deep forest shade is great!
 
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