How many of you think of weeds when you hear the word dandelion? Any hands up? When I was growing up decades ago, my friends and I sat in the yard and pulled dandelion flowers for a little bouquet. There were lots in the school playground. Did you know it is not native to North America and that pioneers brought dandelions seeds with them to grow as much of the plant is edible?
Common dandelion is an introduced plant in North America. In the mid-1600s, European settlers brought the common dandelion (scientific name, Taraxacum officinale) to eastern America and cultivated it in their gardens for food and medicine. Since then it has spread across the continent as a weed.
Dandelions have been carried from place to place as people moved since earliest times. It was used for medicinal purposes by ancient Arabian physicians as a laxative, diuretic and liver tonic. Europeans used the plant to treat fevers, boils, eye problems, diarrhea, fluid retention, liver congestion, heartburn, and skin ailments. The Puritans brought them to the New World for just that reason. I don’t think it hurt that the bright yellow flowers (it’s part of the Sunflower family) reminded them of home.
Most parts of the plant are edible and can be eaten raw or cooked. The simplest use is in salads. It’s an edible flower that is easy to grow (whether you want it or NOT.) One cup of chopped, raw dandelion greens has 25 calories, and is an excellent source of vitamin A, folate, vitamin K, and vitamin C, and calcium and potassium. Also, small birds feed off of the dandelion seeds. Pigs, goats and rabbits will eat the plant. The flower provides nectar for honey bees. It’s really part of the eco system.
Do NOT eat plants sprayed with chemicals. I’m hoping your garden is organic. Check out Organic Gardening Resource List if you need more information. For more information on eating dandelions, see Encyclopedia of Food’s article with recipes for Dandelions.
Today I’m making dandelion syrup. I’ve read about it for years and decided now is the time to try it. It’s really not hard. Collect a basket of little cheery yellow flowers. Check for bugs lurking in the blossoms. Wash in cold water and lay on towel to dry. Remove the petals as the green can make your syrup bitter.
Use organic when available. Makes 24 servings
- 12 oz dandelion flowers
- 1 1/2 cups cane sugar (or to taste)
- 1 lemon juiced
- Wearing gloves (so your hands don't stain), pick petals from flowers (about 5 ounces or more)
- Put the petals in a pot and cover them with water
- Bring them to a rolling boil and boil for about 30 seconds
- Remove from heat
- Cover and steep overnight in cool, dark place
- Next morning strain flowers with water going into clean pot
- Use a sieve or colander lined with cheese cloth
- Push back of spoon against flowers or with your hands to get all the fluid out
- Add sugar and lemon juice
- Simmer on medium heat about 45 minutes until it’s thickened
- Stir occasionally
- Check for thickness
- Dip a spoon into the syrup, let it cool a bit, and test it with your finger
- If too thin, it may require more time but it will thicken slightly when it cools
- When thick enough, turn off heat and let syrup cool
- Pour into glass bottle and store in refrigerator
- Dandelion syrup has a delicate flavor that is excellent on pancakes and waffles
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