I love free stuff. Think about everything that’s free to the gardener: rainwater, sun, breeze, soil, seeds, and weeds. We’re so lucky. Even many of the plants thought to be weeds are edible. I weeded my garden of chickweed and made dinner. Lambs lettuce will be coming along soon, and purslane. Not to mention ramps (which I’m currently avoiding due to over-harvesting). Right now, dandelions are aplenty. After days of feasting on salads made of the leaves, it’s time to enjoy the flowers and make dandelion jelly.
Dandelion jelly is made from the puffy yellow petals. You pull the blades from the green bract that holds them together. I pinch the bract and pull off the petals, concentrating on the center section, since the outermost petals have a green stripe as the petals transition to the bract. The yellow pollen (I was competing with the bees for the flowers) will stain your hands; I bet I could have made an Easter egg dye from them. I was avoiding the green sections since I wanted the jelly to be as yellow as possible.
To make jelly, you cook the petals in water, and drain the liquid into another pan. Add sugar, pectin and a little lemon juice (which activates the pectin) and boil until it gels. The result is a honey-like substance. I made a tiny experimental batch, but this could be produced in enough volume to preserve. I typically avoid powdered pectin in favor of my own “green apple jelly” but I used Sure-Jell here as a test run.
The recipe – and some of the advice — came from Ava Chin’s excellent “Urban Forager” column in the New York Times.
Dandelion Jelly adapted from Ava Chin, NYT
2 c dandelion petals (no leaves or bracts)
2 c water
1 c granulated white sugar
2 tsp lemon juice
1½ tsp pectin (I used Sure-Jell dissolved in 1 tbsp of water)
Place a saucer in the freezer to chill (this will be used to test the gel).
Combine the dandelion petals and water in a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Lightly boil for 10 minutes. Pour into a strainer and let the liquid drain out into a bowl or another saucepan. Add the rest of the ingredients and bring to a boil, cooking until it passes the gel test: a drop on the chilled plate should be wrinkly then touched).