Friday, May 15, 2009

Dandelion Syrup on a Day Off

I love the flexibility of the homeschool schedule. I love the way it conforms to family life, instead of the other way around. Today was definitely one of those days.

We should have been finishing up our history unit. I had planned a reading assignment, a video, and some activities on ancient Egypt. The dinosaur mural is completed and displayed on the family room wall, but there's more to do on our Civil War quilt, and the timeline needs to be glued together and taped up.

However, all of this was halted, when my husband decided to make a quick trip to Grandma's house to pick up a piano, and agreed to let our oldest daughter tag along.
In public school, the class would simply have to continue, and the missing student would just have to catch up later. Schooling at home allows us the option of taking the day off entirely, and catching up together on Monday, or even Saturday. But what to do with a day off?
Make dandelion syrup of course!

Okay, let me preface this by telling you, that I have never (underline never) cooked a dandelion before in my life. I'm a pretty average Walmart shopping, Starbucks drinking kind of gal - or at least I would be if there were a Walmart or Starbucks anywhere in the vicinity. I'm married to an average, neighbor association loving, round-up using, meat eating kind of guy. Dandelions have not generally made it to our table except as the occasional centerpiece picked by an enthusiastic toddler.

So, how was it that I found myself at the neighbors a few doors down last night, asking if they'd sprayed their yard, and if they hadn't, would they'd mind if I helped myself to a few of their weeds? It's not a complicated story really.

  • I saw a Lewis and Clark botanical display at the museum.

  • I mentioned the display to my mother.

  • She started to reminisce about the flowers and herbs her mother used to gather - including dandelion greens.

  • I looked dandelions up online - and wow! There are a lot of uses for them.

  • I noticed the neighbors had a pretty good crop going...

So, there I was, daughters in tow, plucking the little yellow heads from my neighbors lawn. I didn't collect too many, because I'm always a little suspicious new foods. I didn't want to end up with a giant pot of yuck. A small jar of syrup would be good enough for a sampling.

So, I brought home about a hundred flowers (give or take).

I washed them, pulled off all the yellow parts, and put them in a pan with about 1/2 cup of water.

I boiled them for one minute. The children were thrilled to be cooking flowers, but my husband was looking quite concerned.

After one minute of boiling, I removed the pan from the heat, covered it, and left it overnight.

This morning, I strained out the flowers by pouring the contents of the pan, through a clean cloth, into a bowl. And yes, I was a little concerned about the green shade of the remaining liquid.

To this liquid, I added 1/2 cup of sugar, and 2 Tbs. of tangelo juice. Most recipes call for lemon juice, but I had a tangelo, so I figured - why not?

I simmered the new mixture (the color improved once the juice and sugar were added) for 2 hours, until it was a bit frothy.

All that was left was to let it cool a little, and try it. Being a skeptic, I made a second batch, minus dandelions - just a simple syrup with a little tangelo juice, for comparison. The children conducted blindfolded taste tests (actually, keep your eyes closed, no peeking tests, because we couldn't find the bandanna). It was generally agreed, that the two syrups did taste different.
Both were sugary and delicious. Both tasted very much like honey. But the dandelion syrup, was slightly more mellow and pleasing. The children liked it well enough that they trudged down to a nearby vacant lot, buckets in hand, to bring home a fresh crop of flowers. Now, if I could just get their father to quit gagging...
It's great to be a homeschooler!

1 comment:

Hallie said...

We are going to be making this too! Good to know it isn't nasty!! I just love learning about herbs and all the medicinal properties that we're missing out on!! lol