Saturday, April 17, 2010

Dandelions Four Ways

Yellow blossoms are just starting to pop up in my yard and I'm determined to make the most of it this year. Nova Scotia is full of incredibly nutritious and tasty wild foods (I just realized that half the "weeds" in my garden last year were yummy lamb's quarters!) but I'm especially excited about dandelions--I can find and eat these virtually anywhere I go. We'll be making at least the first three preparations listed here in the coming weeks, as I already have a capper and bottlecaps. We'll see how much the wine-making equipment costs before committing to dandelion wine. If you try any of these, drop me a note and let me know how they turned out!

1. Dandelion Greens

Dandelion greens are best eaten early in the spring before the plant flowers (in other words, NOW!) Once the plant starts to flower the greens become much more bitter, although they are still edible. Pick and rinse dandelion greens to enjoy on a salad, or saute them for 20 minutes in olive oil with garlic and/or onions, finishing with a splash of wine. Delicious and ridiculously nutritious!

2. Dandelion Root Beer


  • 1 gallon water
  • 1 1/2 cups molasses
  • 1 teaspoon yeast
  • 4 ounces clean, peeled dandelion root


Mash the dandelion roots with a potato masher (alternatively, put them in a plastic baggie, give your five-year-old a hammer, and stand back). Put the mashed roots and the water in a pot, bring to a boil, and simmer for 20 minutes. Strain into a large container, add molasses, and cool to lukewarm. Once it is lukewarm, add the yeast and stir. Cover the container with a cloth and put it in a warm, draft-free spot. After two hours, pour the mixture into clean bottles to within 1/2 inch of the tops. Cap with capper and metal caps (available at any of these beer-and-wine shops that have popped up all over the place). Place the capped bottles on their sides in a warm, draft-free spot for 5 days, then set upright in a cool place. Root beer will be ready to drink in 10 days. Enjoy all summer long!

3. Dandelion Jelly


  • 2 cups dandelion blossoms, separated from leaves and bracts (essentially all the green stuff) Pick midday when the blossoms are full.
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoon fresh-squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons pectin


Boil flowers in water on medium heat for about 10 minutes. Strain petals from liquid and return liquid to a clean pot to boil. Add sugar, lemon juice, and pectin as per the instructions on your box of pectin. Boil and stir vigorously with a wooden spoon, skimming the foam, until the top surface becomes blobby and glasslike (2 or more minutes). If you know how to can, you can put this jelly in sterilized jars for year-long storage. If not, simply pour the jelly into containers and store in the fridge. This also freezes well, so feel free to stock some in your freezer for anytime! Dandelion jelly is dandy on toast and also as a condiment for meats.

4. Dandelion Wine


  • 1 quart dandelion petals
  • 3/4 pound chopped golden raisins
  • 2 pounds sugar
  • 3 lemons
  • 3 oranges
  • 1 teaspoon yeast nutrient
  • 7 1/2 pints water
  • wine yeast

Combine dandelion petals and water, bring to a boil, and simmer for two hours. Strain the liquid to remove the solids, return the liquid to the heat, and bring to a low boil. Zest the oranges and lemons and set aside. Juice the oranges and lemons and add the juice and the sugar to the boiling liquid, stirring well to dissolve. Add the zest and raisins, then remove from heat and set aside to cool. When the mixture reaches room temperature, stir in the yeast nutrient and activated yeast. Cover the mixture and put in a warm, draft-free spot. Stir 3 times daily for two weeks. After two weeks, strain the liquid again to remove solids and pour into a fermentation vessel (such as a bottle or jug) with a fitted airlock. After three weeks, remove airlock, skim any foam from the top of the liquid, and put the airlock back on. Repeat until fermentation is clearly finished, then store for a year before drinking. Worth the wait!

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