This spring I got into identifying indigenous edible plants. It’s quite fun, but be certain that you are learning from a skilled naturalist, as some edible plants have toxic look a likes.
Anyway, because I was reading up on all kinds of edible plants that grow in our region, I stumbled upon Dandelions. I had always known that the leaves were edible, usually turned into a fresh picked salad, when they are young and have not yet developed that deep bitter flavor. My 91 year old grandmother had taught me that as a child while she was recounting tales of her childhood during the Great Depression. “My mother used to send me out to gather Dandelion greens for supper. They were SOOOO good.” I used to think that it was amazing what seems to be gourmet food to an individual without the luxuries that we have in our modern society. Dandelions are rarely thought of as delicious, edible greens, and are more accurately viewed as a nuisance that we must dig up and throw out.
Well, in my reading about the edible bits and pieces of a Dandelion I stumbled upon a recipe mentioning Dandelion Jelly. Immediately I was intrigued. My parents own acreage that EXPLODES with yellow blossoms in the spring! After a little more research, I picked up the phone and asked my parents to please NOT mow an acre for me. Their reaction when I told them I was coming to pick the Dandelion blossoms first, was absolutely priceless. But they humored me. My dad even helped pick!
Let me tell you what, picking in tedious work. Then once you are done picking you must snip or pinch the bright yellow petals from the bitter green receptacle (the bulbous area where the various parts of the flower attach). Now THAT is far more tedious that you can ever fathom. Oh, my aching back. I snipped for what seemed like an eternity, and then when my hubby got home from work, he took a shift snipping. Once we had the amount of petals that the recipe called for, we made the Dandelion “tea” that will eventually become the jelly. To make the Dandelion tea, you simply pour boiling water over those petals you’ve so painstakingly picked, snipped, and prepared, and let them sit over night. We were both pretty concerned to note that our “tea” looked very grey before we went to bed and we were certain that we had somehow ruined it by letting a few too many green pieces fall in with the petals. Believe me, no matter how precise you are when you are separating petals from the receptacle, you WILL have green pieces in it. We took a deep breath, made a wish, and went to bed.
The next day the tea was a darker grey. We debated over whether we should toss it. I refused because of all the hours we put into it, and hey–who knows! Maybe it’s supposed to be this color…although all of the finished pictures I’ve seen had a beautiful golden jelly…hmmmm.
So, we strained the petals and the pollen (it makes the jelly cloudy) out of the tea. Put the tea in a pot on the stove, and added the sugar and pectin as the recipe dictated.
Then we noticed something! It wasn’t grey anymore! It was a luscious, clear, sunny, golden color! So we quickly taste tested it, and were blown away. It tastes exactly like honey. We canned every last drop, and froze the leftover tea to add to the next batch we make. We even made some small jars to share with our family, because hey, we used their Dandelions!
It is so satisfying to be able to produce something that is useful and has value for very little money. It was hard work, yes, but we had 7 jars of homemade jelly for just the cost of sugar and pectin, under $6. Plus, our children got to learn that hard work has some pretty delicious pay offs.
I followed this recipe from SimplyCanning.com