It’s a dandelion week at the Walbacz homestead – the little buggers are all over the yard, and continue to propagate what with copious sunshine and rain. Yay!
On this stay-at-home adventure that I’ve both been doing throughout the past year, and especially in the past few weeks, I’m learning more and more about foraging and what to do with those foraged items. As said in a previous post, one of the most versatile and easy-to-identify foraged crops is the dandelion – its flowers, leaves, and roots are all edible and quite tasty!
One of my most recent new discoveries is dandelion jelly – a jelly that, yes, uses those little yellow flowers probably popping up in your yard right now (or will be soon) to make a jelly that looks and tastes remarkably like honey. (I suppose the process is quite like making honey ourselves!) Imagine my surprise and delight when I got to pull out the canning equipment in early spring to make this glittering gem of a spread.
More than the jelly itself (which is pretty delicious), I’m enjoying hearing from others how dandelion jelly has been a staple for their families for generations, or its place as a fond memory from their childhood. I’d never even heard of it, nor even considered that this garden “weed” could be made into something so tasty. If you’re skeptical about foraging, but are curious enough to try it, start with dandelions, and try your hand at making this jelly yourself!
A few notes, as usual:
- As a rule when foraging, take only what you need at the time, and no more. Pollinators need early flowers like dandelions to, well, pollinate. Picking a crapload of them to hoard prevents other critters from getting what they need. Thankfully, dandelions pop up again pretty fast, and the simple act of picking them and/or disturbing the white seedpods helps them spread out and regrow, so in the realm of foraging, this is a better plant for getting larger quantities. Still, be judicious.
- If you need another reason to only take what you need at a given time, dandelion flowers don’t last long – they’ll wilt and shrivel within hours of picking. Get the given amount and get ready to make the jelly pretty much immediately.
- Make sure what you’re picking is actually dandelion. Cross reference with professionals and guides if you need help. When in doubt, don’t. Just don’t. (Thankfully, the most common dandelion lookalikes are all edible and medicinal. Yay!)
- Don’t forage for dandelions near roadsides, locations where there is a lot of runoff (like roadsides, parking lots, etc.), near polluted waters, near poisonous plants, or in places where pesticides and sprays have been used. Any of that mess can and will end up in the plants themselves and, in turn, your body. Yuck.
- For the jelly, you’re only using the yellow parts of the flower. Yep, that means trimming the little green crowns, too. Otherwise, you’ll end up with bitter jelly. (On that note, it’s okay if you get a little bit of the crown in there – just try to get as little as possible.)
The following recipe was adapted from the Old Farmer’s Almanac, with a few tweaks – I use a little less sugar, and I doubled it to use most of the dandelion “tea.” (If I’m bothering to make jelly and hot-water can, I’m making as much as I can. Pun fully intended.) However, you can easily halve it for immediate refrigerator use, as well, and use the rest of the tea for other purposes, like drinking.
If you’re preserving the jelly, you can use the same directions as for pickled okra regarding the hot water preservation.
Let’s jam–err, jelly!
A clear yellow jelly that tastes like honey! Spread it on biscuits or whatever else your heart desires.
you will need:
- 4 c bright yellow dandelion flowers
- 4 tbsp lemon juice
- 7 tbsp powdered fruit pectin
- 10 c sugar
- Rinse dandelion blossoms with cool water, and snip the green parts from the blossoms.
- Boil the blossoms in 2 quarts of water for 3 minutes to make a dandelion tea. Remove from heat, and allow to cool enough to strain and squeeze out the liquid from the blossoms through a fine-mesh sieve.
- Combine 6 cups of the dandelion tea (the rest of the liquid can be used as a soup stock or a lightly sweet beverage – we used ours for simmering collard greens!) with the pectin and lemon juice. Bring the mixture to a rolling boil, then add the sugar all at once, whisking to combine. Bring the mixture back to a boil, stirring constantly, and allow to boil actively for 2 ½ minutes. Remove from heat.
- At this point, you can pour the jelly into clean glass jars and allow to cool to room temperature before refrigerating. Or, you can hot-water preserve the jelly, processing for 15 minutes in the hot water bath.