Spring has brought the dandelions out in full force in our new garden! Previously unnoticed amongst the lush winter lawn, their sudden bloom is a reminder that it’s definitely spring. I’ve got plans for their roots – a rich, earthy tea, but harvesting the blossoms provides ingredients for dandelion honey and will help prevent them from seeding too bountifully.
Dandelion honey turns out to have a VERY long history. Who knew? It definitely goes back at least 200 years in Western Europe, but there are mentions of it even further back in parts of Eastern Europe and Asia. When genuine honey was either a luxury or simply hard to come by, our ingenious ancestors turned to the dandelions dotting their fields and meadows. For the longest time, dandelions were considered a herb, not a weed.
A simple concoction of dandelion flowers, water, lemon, and sugar was all it took to create a golden syrup, reminiscent of bee honey. The beauty of this simple old-world recipe is how adaptable it is to what you have at hand, use different sugars and citrus, or infuse with other edible flowers to create a honey with different characteristics.
While you’ve almost certainly heard of dandelions, you should take a little time to make sure you know what they actually look like. There are many imposters and while most are edible, they aren’t all. If you’re new to the world of foraging, review more than one authoritative resource to make sure you’re collecting safe food that’s safe to eat.
How to make Dandelion Honey
- 100g / 4 cups dandelion flowers
- 1250ml / 5 cups water
- 2 slices lemon or other citrus fruit
- golden caster sugar or sugar of choice
First, pick the dandelion blossoms on a sunny day when they are fully open. Pinch the heads off the stems. Shake or dust the flowers.
Place the dandelion petals in a large pot with the water and lemon slices. Bring the water to a boil, then reduce the heat, cover, and let simmer for about half an hour. Let the mixture infuse overnight.
Strain the liquid, press the petals to extract as much liquid as possible. Smell, not an essential step, but you may be delightfully surprised.
Weigh the liquid and add equal amount of sugar then return the strained liquid to the pot and bring the mixture to a boil while stirring.
Once boiling, reduce the heat and gently simmer. You can simmer the mixture for 15 minutes for a syrup or an hour or more for a thick caramelised dandelion honey. Remember, the syrup will thicken more as it cools.
When your dandelion honey has reached your desired consistency, remove it from the heat. Cool slightly and pour it into sterilised jars, seal the jars and cool completely.
Store in a cool, dark place. Use in recipes as a vegan honey alternative.
How to identify dandelion
Like many plants, dandelions are easiest to identify when in flower. Each bright yellow flower blooms on a single unbranched stem which is hollow, leafless and can contain a milky sap.
Their leaves don’t have stems and they grow in a circular pattern from a central point at the ground level. The smooth lance shaped leaves have jagged tooth-like edges which give the dandelion its name. Derived from the French “dent de lion,” which means “lion’s tooth.” This makes dandelion leaves easy to identify once you are familiar with them, even when not in flower.
Forage Responsibly and safely
- The first rule of foraging is if in doubt – don’t! Don’t eat it.
- If you’re new to foraging, it’s always a good idea to go with an experienced forager or use a reliable plant identification book, but the first rule still applies.
- I was foraging on my lawn which is free from toxic chemicals. If you’re foraging in urban areas or parks, make sure the area hasn’t been sprayed with herbicides or pesticides.
If you don’t see other flowers around remember that dandelion flowers can be an important source of nectar for bees, wild bees and other pollinating insects. Forage from a broad area and only take what you need.
Remember foraging rules vary around the world and may differ within regions. Check with the appropriate authority.
If you enjoy adding foraged finds to your diet, depending on the season you could try these recipes using these commonly foraged finds. Onionweed, Sweet Violet, Rowan Berry, Samphire or Nasturtium. If you’re after a whole food plant-based sweetener, date syrup may be perfect for your pantry.