After learning about all of the health benefits and uses for dandelions, I decided that I needed to go out and forage for my own. I scouted out lots of herbicide-free locations that would have worked for picking, but in the end, I found I had enough growing around my house that I didn't need to go anywhere.
Making the syrup was a lot more work than I anticipated. I began to wonder how many people post a recipe for dandelion syrup but never actually make it - the instructions seem so vague! So, in the spirit of broadening the information surrounding the dandelion syrup making process, here are some of my notes.
When picking dandelion flowers for syrup, make sure you are selective in the ones you decide to take. I've heard that the younger, more petite flowers taste better, but these are not always the easiest ones to make syrup from. Look for the bushy, full headed flowers and avoid bothering with any thin ones. This will pay dividends when you go to separate the petals from the sepal - the small tight leaves that extend from the stem and grasp the flower - later on.
Before you can start simmering your dandelion flowers, the petals must be separated from the rest of the flower. If you leave any green stem, leafy bits or any part of the sepal on the dandelion, many sources say it will impart a bitterness to the syrup. This is where the work comes in. After trying various methods, I finally settled on the one I will share with you. By squeezing at the base of the flower (on the sepal) you'll feel the petals detach and pop up slightly from their base. Grasp the center of the petals and pull. Don't worry about getting all of the petals around the perimeter - getting all the petals from each flower would be too time consuming!
Even though I recommend you wash your flowers prior to simmering them, you won't likely get all of the bugs out of the petals. I know in the batch I made, there was at least one little ant that got simmered along with many more smaller bugs that couldn't been seen. If the idea of eating a few bugs in your syrup makes you squeamish, dandelion syrup is probably not for you.
The flavour of dandelion petals in this syrup is delicate, floral and refreshing, with a hint of citrus (thanks to the added lemon and orange). So far, this dandelion syrup has past the taste test of three children, one of which was my own. I really enjoy a teaspoon of it in my tea, but I have to be honest, a teaspoon of honey is equally as good and much less work!
If you're feeling inclined to take advantage of all those free dandelion flowers around your yard, here is the recipe. If you try it out, I'd love to hear how it goes for you.
Dandelion Syrup (makes ~1-2 cups)
1 1/2 cups petals
1 cup honey
3 cups water
Juice of 1/2 lemon (optional)
Juice of 1/2 orange (optional)
Wash your dandelions. Remove the petals from the sepal. Place the petals in a medium pot and cover with 3 cups water and bring to a simmer. Turn off the heat, cover and let sit overnight. Strain the dandelion water into a bowl, pressing on the flowers with the back of a spoon to extract all the liquid. Return the water to a pot and add honey, lemon and orange juice if using, and simmer over low heat until it reduces and thickens. Allow to cool, and pour into a clean jar or bottle. Store covered in refrigerator.
Note: My dandelion syrup did not thicken, even though I reduced it to one cup of liquid. It became more like sweetened water than syrup, but it is still excellent in tea. I do not know how long this jar of 'syrup' will last, but I would image it to be somewhere between two and three weeks, unless frozen.
This recipe is linked up with Real Food Wednesdays, Works for Me Wednesdays, Pennywise Platter Thursday and Simple Lives Thursday.