Springtime Sweets

The weather is feeling delightfully springy here in central New England. The world is starting to blossom.

Seeing all these flowers has helped me through the last few weeks. For reasons personal, local, national and global, I have really been struggling. That is why this week I decided to make something sweet. I did so using some of the flowers pictured above. I made a batch of dandelion syrup.

Do not collect dandelion flowers until there are enough blooms to keep the bees fed.

What is dandelion syrup? It is a syrup infused with dandelion petals. That is not a snarky answer, that is simply all it is. I first read about this classic springtime treat a few weeks ago. I wanted to wait until there were adequate blooms of multiple species before I tried making a batch. Those first few dandelions that pop up in your lawn provide critical food for bees.

There are plenty of websites that claim dandelion syrup (also known as dandelion honey) has all kinds of miraculous health benefits. I do not know how true those claims are, but I welcome input from anyone with some peer reviewed research available.

The first step is to gather some dandelions. If you are not an avid forager, remember the rules of wild harvesting:

  • Do not trespass. If you must access private property that is not yours to gather what you are looking for, ask permission from the property owner.
  • Do not harvest every flower, leaf, fruit, berry, etc. from a given area. Other creatures depend on that food. Besides, you want more to come back to next season.
  • Only gather from areas you know for sure are not contaminated by chemicals or trash.
  • Only gather what you can identify with 100% certainty.

As you can see, I had plenty of help gathering the flowers. The next step was pulling the petals away from the green part. The green part makes the syrup bitter. I used a thumbnail to split the green part, then pulled the petals out. I ended up with four cups of petals.

The next step is, according to some, optional. Rinse the petals. Why would that be optional? Some recipes insist that rinsing away the pollen defeats the whole purpose of dandelion syrup. I like rinsing plant parts before I prepare them for consumption. You do you, no judgment.

The next step is infusion, and is very easy. Find a very clean, heat-safe container that is at least twice the volume of the petals. Add the petals, then add boiling water to cover and submerge the petals. I used a half-gallon mason jar. Cover the container and stash it in the refrigerator over night, or at least move it to a cool, dark place.

The next day I strained the dandelion infusion into my biggest measuring cup. I added one quarter cup of lemon juice. This brought my infusion volume to 6 cups. I moved the infusion to a wide sauce pan and added an equal volume (6 cups) of plain old white sugar. Then it was a gentle boil to cook the sugar and drive off some water. Warning to all my fellow DIYeters. Do not step away from your cooking sugar syrup. Bad things happen when syrup boils over. Observe:

What you cannot see in this picture is the thick smoke that filled my kitchen when the pot boiled over. It was terrible. LEARN FROM MY FAILURE.

I decided I was done fooling around with boiling syrup after that. I let the pan cool a bit, cleaned off the stove top, and moved the dandelion syrup to jars. I used some to sweeten a pot of fresh mint and lemon balm tea. It really does taste like honey, although mine is a bit thinner than honey. If I feel motivated at a later date, I can always boil off more water. I want to try using this in ice cream, perhaps with some fresh dandelion petals.

I am glad I tried making dandelion syrup. It feels good to make something delicious out of food that is, essentially, zero cost. Have you done any foraging or wild gathering lately? Share your experience in the comments.