Taraxacum officinale. This native of Europe and Asia is one of the banes of gardeners around the world. These so-called weeds were brought here because the early settlers missed their pretty little yellow flowers. I, for one, don't understand the outright hatred of these versatile perennial plants. They are sprayed and weeded with a vengeance, but the dandelion, I hate to tell you, is here to stay. So stop fighting them, eat them!!
Fresh, young dandelion greens go amazingly well with hard boiled egg and bacon. There is something about the bacon fat and egg that counteracts any bitterness.Top with your favourite salad dressing and you have a healthy, tasty treat. For the less health conscious, just pour the bacon fat over it all. Yummy!! Dandelion greens can be used practically anywhere you would use spinach. Soups, omelettes, quiche. Now, don't just rush out and grab a handful of leaves and start munching. They need to be used IN something. Chop some leaves up finely and add them to you regular salad mix for a nutritious boost. Put a few leaves on a grilled cheese sandwich. Just remember, the younger leaves are good raw, the older ones can be bitter and should be cooked. Leaves grown in the shade tend to be less bitter.
You're probably here for the wine though, so we'll get on with it then, shall we? When I was a kid, every summer Dad would kick us out of the house, into the fresh air, with a bushel basket. This is best done around noon, when the flowers are fully open. We were told not to return until it was full. We would comb the neighborhood lawns like a couple of wayward cows, ignoring the strange looks from the people living in the houses. It became a game, pouncing on the biggest patch, being the first to spot the overgrown, un-mowed lawn 4 houses down, until the bushel was full. Our fingers would be yellow and sticky by this time. Dad would have us wash our hands and then find us a nice shady spot where we would proceed to remove ALL of the petals from the flower heads. The green would make the wine bitter, the less green, the better the wine. Our fingers would again be yellow and sticky. We would always be awarded/bribed with a bowl of ice cream for our efforts.
Here are two of Dads favourite recipes; the first one for adults, the second one for kids.
MAGDALINA'S DANDELION WINE
6 quarts freshly picked dandelion petals
4 quarts water
4 pounds white sugar
3 sliced lemons
2 tbsp. yeast
Pour the water over the dandelion petals and let stand 3 days and 3 nights. strain through a cloth and add white sugar, lemons, yeast. Let stand 4 days and 4 nights. Strain again and pour into bottles. Cork lightly and let stand---until your curiosity gets the better of you.
LIZZIE'S UNFERMENTED DANDELION WINE
2 quarts dandelion petals
4 quarts hot water
4 lemons, juice and rind
2 1/2 pounds white sugar
Put the blossoms and hot water in a crock and let stand for 2 days and 2 nights. Remove most of the blossoms, boil the rest with the lemons for 15 minutes. Cool, strain, and put in the sugar. Next day strain again and bottle.
2 cups of dandelion petals
juice and zest of 1 lemon
2 cups of boiling water
3 cups of sugar
1/2 package of powdered pectin
a dash of yellow food colouring if desired
Steep the petals and the lemon zest in the boiling water, leave overnight and then strain through muslin cloth to squeeze out as much flavour as possibe. Discard petals and zest.
In a stainless steel pot, bring infusion, sugar and lemon juice to a boil, then add the pectin and boil for 10 minutes. Take the pot off the heat and add a few drops of the food colouring if you like a nicer yellow. Keep in the fridge for up to a month.
So, stop fighting your dandelions, enjoy their incredible health benefits. Live in peace with them. They are a pretty yellow flower and add a touch of colour to an otherwise boring green lawn.
Always remember, never eat any wild plant unless you are absolutely sure of its identity.
Wine recipes were from a favourite old cookbook of my Moms, Edna Staebler "Food that Really Schmecks"
Jelly recipe from the new Zealand gardener Magazine special edition "Homegrown"
Many thanks to debilu for sharing her lovely Dandelion photos with me.