We’re all familiar with the common dandelion. In fact, if you’re a suburban dweller on a quest for a perfect grassy yard, the dandelion might be your worst enemy. But this common plant has a long history of traditional medicinal uses. Plus you can find it everywhere, so if you’re a hesitant forager, it’s an easy starting point.
Why dandelions? Dandelions are a bitter tonic, which is good for digestion and the liver. In herbal medicine, it’s frequently used for skin concerns (which traditionally are treated via the liver). It’s also a powerful diuretic, so you might not want to drink this before a long car trip!
What part to pick? The entire dandelion is useful: the flowers, stems, leaves and root. The spring and summer are best for harvesting the flowers, stems and leaves, while the autumn is the best time to collect the root.
I’ve only used the flowers so far, but you can use the young leaves as a bitter leaf in a spring salad.
Always be sure to collect the plants from a clean area, away from roads or any area that might have been sprayed with chemical fertilizers or pesticides or herbicides!
1 heaping double-handfull of dandelion flowers
2 c. water
1 c. white sugar
juice of 1/2 lemon
It’s best to separate the yellow and green bits on the flower head. This is easiest with your fingers, just pulling out the yellow bits and discarding the green. The green part is edible, but slightly bitter, and will give you a darker syrup. If you use only the yellow bits, you’ll have a sunny yellow syrup!
Put all of the yellow bits of the dandelion heads in a pan. Cover with water. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat to simmer, and simmer 20 minutes.
Stir in sugar and cook 5 more minutes until dissolved. (Or until as thick as you want. You can continue cooking the syrup until it becomes quite thick like honey, if you prefer. I left mine very liquid.) Add lemon juice.
Strain through a sieve to remove flower petals. Discard petals.
Store syrup in pretty, clear glass, sterilized bottles (to show off the yellow color).
Both bottles above are dandelion syrup. The brown bottle on the left I made using entire flowerheads, and with demerara sugar (I’m sure the sugar contributed to the color, not sure if the flowerheads did too!). The bottle on the right I made as described above, using the petals only and white sugar. Much more ‘dandelion-y’ color!!
How to use the syrup:
As a cordial / fruit syrup: Pour 1 part syrup over ice, and add 3-4 parts water (flat or sparkling).
Add to champagne for a springtime kir royale cocktail.
Drizzle over plain pound cake or a fresh fruit salad for a spring dessert.
If you have other creative ideas for how to use syrups, let us know in the comments!