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Several years ago, when William and Kate got married, someone in our town organised a street party. Now– I love the idea of a street party, the history and tradition of mass celebration of Royal Weddings in Britain, the comradery, the feasting. Yet there’s also a deep ambivalence about the concept and public financial drain of monarchy. I was torn about participating.  But, because Kate and Will were a couple based in love, something truly to celebrate, and because I wanted to support the efforts of the girl so enthusiastically organising the event, I decided to join in.

At that time, I was attempting to make a dandelion preserve, a jelly really, but the whole thing went wrong, because without any pectin — I guess I could have used apples for a mild tasting thickening agent– it didn’t solidify.  What resulted was a thick syrup, known as Dandelion Honey.  I wasn’t fully satisfied though because I knew from the process that there had been a moment of beautiful, delicate fragrance that I’d boiled away in my attempt to make the jelly.  So I resolved to try again in the future to recreate that ephemeral moment of sublime dandelion perfume that I’d experienced.

(For the street party I made choux pastry Cream Puffs with a very light whipped cream and dandelion “honey” drizzled on top– a really nice offering that someday I will make again, maybe for an occasion more intimate to my own loved ones.)

Fast forward to NOW, and dandelions in yellow bloom adorn everywhere weeds are allowed to flourish– or rather, not forbidden. My heart is full.  Pick a flower. more flowers grow.  Get in close, and notice how many various pollinators, are supping in the lawns and verges.  Vow to support campaigns that fight for wildflowers in public spaces like roadways and council spaces .  Talk about this issue with anyone you meet and make a pest of yourself if you have to.  We need to make all spaces friendly for myriad beings — that is the nature of Ecology.  We need to really change the social understanding of “weeds” and develop an aesthetic that honours them.  Foraging makes this understanding very personal.

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Pictured below, the petals themselves, separated from sepals and stems, so pretty and fluffy and chick-like.

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As the afternoon evolved into evening, the flowers  — sleepy heads — folded into themselves. What’s the name of that phenomenon?  They were trickier to dismantle.

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The web is full of great info, and though I couldn’t find the excellent blog I’d used the first time, this one came up for me and was as good as any —  I like the idea of the grandmother in Switzerland making drinks with  dandelion syrup…

The approach is to soak the petals, boil them briefly, let it all steep, add sugar, boil for as short as possible, et voila, your syrup, an easy decoction preserved in sugar.  (A one to one ratio of infused water to sugar is considered a “Simple Syrup”; the linked author uses slightly less sugar.   Keep reducing the concoction over heat and you have Dandelion Honey.  But the more you boil, as I’ve said, the more the volatile perfume vanishes.  I think for flavour and perfume power the more flowers you have and the less water, the better; this is a principle I’ll let guide me and see if I keep agreeing…

So here is my Dandelion Simple Syrup:

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It’s a smoky yellow colour in this light, a bit like….  ok I’ll say it… urine.  Kind of makes you wonder if the nickname of this plant as Pissalit (pee the bed) also refers to this…  Although: dandelion is also considered a diuretic.  My friend Michelle, a knowledgable herbalist, says that if it’s yellow, it’s good for your liver (and red, good for your heart).  This syrup is a very particular yellow indeed.

Reminds me, more than anything, of the taste of Chrysanthemum Tea, if any of you have made tea from packages of flowers you may have bought in a Chinatown grocery somewhere in your travels…

So– what would you do with it?  What will I do with it?

I could thicken it to drizzle on pancakes and cake

could dillute with soda water for soft drinks or cocktails

to moisten and lightly colour confectioners/ icing sugar for Royal Icing

to sweeten: yoghurt, smoothies, ice creams or sorbets

…or a tea, black tea in a small glass Russian style, or lemongrass, or nettle

to use as the basis for wonderful, naturally carbonated sodas made with probiotic Water Kefir grains, fun drinks I used to be obsessed with making.  Or as the sweetener in FlowerPower Kombucha.

to ferment as the basis of a vinegar….

or to mix with vinegar and drink as a refreshing summer Shrub….

to be inspired, as with Elderflower Champagne (or Fizz), to mix with lemons and oranges and water, and add yeast or leave out to attract natural yeasts (as would be my preferred method) then bottle  and cap and carefully watch against explosion for a lovely summer drink….

Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera…

(postscript: something I did do: made a Lemon Drizzle Cake but with orange, and the drizzle this Dandelion)

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Blowing a thousand seeds to the wind, make a wish.  Mine is for a thousand seeds to begin ten thousand flowers to nourish all pollinators who alight upon them, all beings happy in an ecologically restored world, lawn by lawn, road verge by road verge, suburb by suburb, city by city.

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And now, Ladies and Gentlemen, and any of you who might feel excluded by those binary categories, a MELLOW YELLOW moment, the light hitting the syrup and giving us this jaunty yellow-yellow:

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