If you are a personal friend or a loyal reader, you may know by now that I like to Forage and make nice edible things with my finds, like a Dandelion Syrup or a Lilac Jelly, even a yummy Mulberry Pie. Mulberry season is coming up, by the way!
Are you ready to see what I did with Dandelion Stems? Yes, Dandelion Stems!
I had read in a few different places that some fellow Foragers enjoy harvesting Dandelion Stems and making "Noodles". We HAD to try this!
I am going to give you the disclaimer early on, calling cooked Dandelion Stems Noodles is a complete misnomer! Trust me, I am a huge noodle fan, from wheat noodles to rice to the fun shirataki noodles. Calling them greens may be closer, though still inaccurate. The taste, to me, was almost exactly like Asparagus stems. If you love Asparagus, you will be delighted with this dish!
The Children went out with me early in the day and we had a blast harvesting. Pick only longer stems that have blooms that have already turned into the downy seed, and as always, please leave much more than you harvest. Additional foraging tips, always forage where you know chemicals are not used, and you are at least 100ft away from any car exhaust. ;)
Look at all of those beautiful stems! We have a special fondness for finding the extra wide, fused dandelion stems. It's a special tradition of ours to look for those in fields.
Little Man loves foraging so much! Bunny prefers when we go out on not as sunny days ;)
Once you have harvested an amount that you are happy with, take your bounty home. Trim off any spots as needed, and then rinse with water in a colander.
Then add salted water to a large pot, place your Dandelion Stems in, and heat to boiling. If you do not have a large pot, you can chop up your stems into more manageable pieces, though as they start to boil and soften, you can stir them and the stems will bend and fold down to your pot a la noodles, and the size of them shrinks down a la greens.
Boil for several minutes, stirring occasionally. You want to cook the Dandelion Stems until they are very soft and tender, this also helps to get some of the bitterness out.
Once done, drain out the excess water, and add Butter. I added a little bit of extra Himalayan Salt and we ate ours like that. I had requests that next time we add Parmesan Cheese and I do think they would be way better that way! We even brought a little plate of Buttered Dandelion Stems to one of our neighbors who greets us daily on our walks, and even he and his Family were surprised at how good the Stems tasted!
We are on a huge foraging and jelly making streak these days. Both activities are super fun and great for families or alone time, you will love it!
Where we live in the Midwest, everyone looks forward to the lilac bushes blooming in Springtime. The smell is divine, and the colors are spectacular. Lilacs are edible and turn into a beautiful jelly.
Pick a nice day and your cutest little helpers and get to harvesting! We took extra care and time to stop and smell the lilacs ;)
After we collected our harvest, we brought it inside, rinsed the lilacs off in a strainer, and began the task of plucking each blossom from the stems. It turned out to be a pretty neat bonding experience and we had fun sitting around the table and talking.
Once that is done, it is time to place your blossoms in a heat safe jar or container, and completely cover with hot water. I like things to be simple, so I used my Keurig for the hot water. Now for the hard part, at least for me-letting the blossoms soak overnight.
The pretty lilac hue fades from the flowers, and that is a neat thing to see.
Are you ready for the next step? Even if you have never made a jam or jelly, you will have an easy time. You can get your jars and lids/rings at most any of your local grocer or big box stores, Ball brand, of course. ;) Do not forget to pick up your pectin, it now comes in a handy canister.
Strain your lilac solution and place in the pot you are using. We used our good ole medium sized saucepan. If you are working with little helpers they can do this step and adding in the pectin and sugar no problem!
Add in your pectin-the standard amount for most batches is 6 tablespoons. Next up, Sugar! There is a little bit of wiggle room here. White granulated will work great and is the standard classic. I have a raw cane sugar that I like to get from Whole Foods. Honey works, though you need to go through some trial and error as amounts need to be adjusted to avoid an overly syrupy final result. For our jelly, we used two cups of sugar, which made our jelly sweet but not sickly sweet. Just a touch of tartness.
Whisk everything together and let your solution come to boiling.
During this time, you will need to sterilized your jars and lids in a hot bath. We do not have a canner, we use our big stainless steel pot with lid that I use to make large batches of sauce and other things.
Once your jelly has boiled, pour it into your pre sterilized jars, leaving 1/4 of an inch room at the top. Put your lids on, and secure the ring around each jar. Place your jars back into your canning bath, put the lid on, set timer to ten minutes and bring to a boil.
Using tongs and caution, remove your jars from your pot or canner, and place on a counter or flat surface to cool. Soon you will hear the satisfying POP of each jar lid, letting you know that the jar is sterilized and that you did a good job!
Label and decorate your jars if you please, and make sure to give some away as prezzies.
Today was a most beautiful day. The children and I looked out the window and were admiring all of the neighborhood lawns dotted with pretty dandelions, or as I love to call them, dandy lions.
We decided to take a walk to a local park and gather dandelions to make dandelion syrup! The process is super easy, and I share the steps below. If you have pectin on hand, you can make dandelion jelly as well or instead.
Gather a ton of dandelions. I mean that as hyperbole, not as in gather two thousand pounds of dandelions. *wink* If I were in a way more precise mood, I could have weighed the amount we harvested, though this does not have to be an exact science. Just have fun!
Bring your dandelions in, sort them out, rinse off with a strainer, and then lay out to dry on tea towels or paper towels.
Next, we sat at the table and talked about the uses of the different parts of dandelions.
I used a knife to cut the green base away from the yellow flower tops. There are a couple of different options here. Some people simply twist the flower head away from the base(that doesn't seem to be in my skill set) or you can leave the green part on for a deeper hued and flavored syrup or jelly. Ours had a few green bits mixed in.
Now you are ready to transfer your dandelion petals to a large pot. Cover with water, stir, and bring to a boil. I boiled it for a few minutes, and then simmered for 30 minutes.
After 30 minutes, our dandelion petals were no longer the pretty yellow as above, but instead had a darker, more tea like appearance. This is when we added in the sugar, and the juice of one lemon. I started with two cups of sugar and ended up adding in a third cup of sugar towards the end. Agave would also work, as would some fantastic local honey if you have a good amount of that on hand.
Our mixture was cooked on medium heat for an hour, and stirred occasionally. You will notice it starts to get a more syrupy consistency as it cooks. The longer you cook your dandelion mixture, the thicker it will be, so go with your instincts and what you prefer.
Once done, use a mesh/metal strainer to filter out the petals, then place in the container of your choice!
Your dandelion syrup will keep in your fridge for several weeks, your freezer for several months, and if you go with using pectin and a traditional canning method to make it a jelly/jam instead, that will have a nice long shelf life. Enjoy the mellow, slightly floral taste, and the fun harvesting experience! My children had a marvelous time and are looking forward to gathering more dandelions and making more creations!