This past week my son began making the annual batch of Löwenzahnblütenhonig, or dandelion honey with his Kindergarten group. They routinely do this every year, in May, as the dandelions pop up in the field across from the school. This is something that my kids have really enjoyed doing each year, as they love the taste of the honey, but also the process of gathering, cleaning, and cooking the flowers. Although we have plenty of dandelions growing in the United States, the consumption of these flowers is much higher in Europe. So, instead of pulling those pesky "weeds" in the yard, send your kids out to gather a bunch for a cooking project.
Weed or Flower
The dandelion has a mixed reputation. To some it is a medicinal herb, delicious food, or a lovely tea. To many more others, it is a mere lawn nuisance. Dandelions are typically the first plant to appear in spring, hoarding lawn water and nutrients. The flowers are very important for the local bees. Their flowering indicates that honey bee season is starting, and are and important source of nectar and pollen early in the season. That pollen is a common allergen and commonly responsible for asthma, allergic conjunctivitis, contact dermatitis and allergic rhinitis. Whether you consider this plant a weed or a flower, give it's sweet honey a try!
Löwenzahn is the German word for dandelion. Literally translated it means "Lion's Tooth". Some say that the lobes of the leaves resemble a lion tooth, hence the name. The flower stems of the Löwenzahn are hollow and contain a milky liquid. It is believed that the juice will promote the desire to urinate, thus the name in France, "Pisenlit", which funnily enough translates to "piss the bed".
The Incredible Edible
The entire dandelion plant is edible. The flower is rich in calcium and vitamin D and K. You can turn the flowers into tea or honey and use the leaves, best when young, to dress up a salad or as a substitute for lettuce. There are claims that dandelions have many health benefits such as aiding digestion, lowering blood pressure, improving bone health and even in skin care, helping with acne.
Dandelion honey is a nice seasonal substitute for honey, as it has a very similar flavor. The color of the honey is similar to most honey, and the consistency is slightly thinner. The honey is great on toast, muffins, biscuits, pancakes or mixed into tea. It also makes a really wonderful gift that your children can make themselves. Have them create a fun label and finish with a beautiful fabric cover and bow.
Making the Honey!
The process that our local Kindergarten uses takes about 8 weeks to produce the honey. They alternate sugar with the flowers and eventually it liquefies. This is a fun process to have happening in the classroom for the children to learn from...but if you want honey quicker, there are a variety of recipes.
For a bit quicker honey, here is another recipe for the delicious Löwenzahnblütenhonig. Ingredients: 4 cups dandelion petals; 4 cups water; 3 lemon slices; 2.5 cups granulated sugar; 1/2 vanilla bean (optional).
Step 1: Send your child out with the goal of collecting the dandelions during the afternoon when the blooms are fully open. Remove the blooms from the plant, as you will only need the yellow flower for the honey.
Step 2: Soak the blooms in cool water for a few minutes, allowing any insects that may be hiding to emerge. Remove the petals and discard the center of the flower and any stems or leaves. You can use the entire flower head, but it may create a slightly bitter taste.
Step 3: Put the petals in a saucepan with the water, lemon and vanilla (if desired). Bring it to a boil and then simmer for 30 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and let it steep for 6 hours.
Step 4: Strain the the dandelion through a cheescloth and discard the solid pieces. Place the liquid in a saucepan and bring to a low boil. Slowly add the sugar, stirring until disolved. Lower the heat and let simmer, uncovered, for up to 4 hours (until desired consistency is reached).
Step 5: Store your honey in jars, in the refrigerator.