Hooray for…Weeds!?

It’s here!  Spring’s finally arrived, keeping me happily busy sunup to sundown.   I don’t mind winter, but  wanted to say, “ENOUGH already!” when it seemed to last an eternity this year. Warm thoughts to my friends in the Midwest, feeling those chilly temps even longer than us!  When the first green popped up, I was ready to dance like Snoopy from the Peanuts gang!  So what if some of the vegetation sproutin’ were weeds?  They’regreen!  Recently, I’ve even learned to appreciate and eat certain weeds. Come peek at  what I’ve got cookin’…


When longer days hit, I eagerly head out every morning, coffee cup in hand, searching for “signs of life”.  Ever wonder how on earth we can baby our plants, only to have some struggle and fail, yet weeds handle anything nature throws out? I’ve felt at times my yard could easily be proclaimed the “Garden of Weedin’.”  The dictionary defines a weed as “a wild plant growing where it is not wanted”.  I’d  add that some weeds are “under-appreciated”.  After all, nothing’s prettier than a field of wildflowers!

Fern grows wild here in Connecticut, but I love them, even leaving a few in my flower beds amongst my cultivated flowers.

A weed, still,  I think they are beautiful.

My family and I recently  participated in a “Family Fun Day” at a local farm and nature preserve.  One of the activities offered was a “Foraging Hike”.  The trained leader on the hike warned everyone not to eat anything unless absolutely certain of what it is.  Many plants are poisonous, but knowing what’s edible could be useful.  In Connecticut, Garlic mustard is invasive but tasty.  It’s green leaves add a garlicky flavor to pesto, stir-fries, and salads.

Garlic Mustard, an invasive weed, can grow up to 3 feet tall. On our foraging hike, we found these to be tasty.

 

We also learned that daylilies (pictured) have tasty bulbs, which can be sliced and sauteed.  Harvesting a bulb from under a plant causes no harm to the plantAnother edible are the leaves from wild Trout Lily, which we found to taste sweet.  Unlike its name sounds, heads of Skunk cabbage are not edible – eating that would result in the sensation of “a thousand stinging wasps”No thank you!

Wild raspberries grow in our area.  I love the ones on my property – we eat them on cereal, in baked goods and make jam each summer.

Also tasty are dandelion greens, packed with a powerful punch of iron, calcium, protein, vitamins, and  minerals.  Dandelion flowers themselves are also edible, and this year I was inspired to try something I’ve long wanted to do: make dandelion jelly.  When I was a little girl and we’d head up to the Texas hill country for the weekend, there was an older couple living on one of the nearby ranches.  She was the first person I ever knew to make dandelion, or Sunshine jelly.  I heard of it again a few years ago when it was mentioned on the Farmgirl Forum.  One of my favorite hobbies is canning jam, and I love trying new ones. My husband’s first reaction to my canning-the-weed plan was “Yuck” and I got raised eyebrows from a few of my more “indoor-type “ friends.   I make raspberry jam from the wild vines growing all around our property, so why not dandelions?


Harvest about ten cups of bright yellow dandelion flowers. Avoid any that come from sprayed yards or are near the street or driveway, exposed to car exhaust.


The stems and green caps are bitter, so after washing the flowers well, you’ll want to remove the green, using only the yellow petal. It’s easiest to push the green cap down and  use kitchen shears to slice off  the petals as near to green as possible. The result should be around four cups of petals.

Add five cups of boiling water, “steeping” the petals into a tea.  After it cools, cover and let sit several hours.   (When I opened the container again, the tea was not the bright sunny color I anticipated,  but rather a dull tan, and I admit it smelled less-than-sweet.  I wondered if this was worth doing, at this point).

The next step is to strain the petals from the liquid, which I ran several times through a coffee-filter-lined colander, and finally through a screened sieve, until the yellowish liquid was clear of debris.

Add the juice of one lemon to the liquid and bring it to a rapid boil in a saucepan on the stove.  Add one and one-half box of powdered pectin or MaryJane’s chillover powder, (I don’t like “runny “ jellies) and four-and- a half cups of sugar. While simmering on the stove, the liquid filled the kitchen with a sweet, honey scent, so I became hopeful. The flower petals themselves have a sticky nectar in them, so be sure to gently stir the liquid the entire time to avoid scorching.  Boil for five to seven minutes, cool for five, and place in sterilized jars, following regular canning steps. For a reminder on the steps of jam-making, check out my post here: http://sfgblog.maryjanesfarm.org/default.asp?Display=57

After cooling the jars, the jelly congealed and the resulting color is a bright, cheerful yellow, and made quite a few jars.  The jam’s delicious…a sweet flavor  with a hint of honey and marmalade.  My doubtful husband has already eaten half a jar, and requested a jar for a co-worker who’s eager to try it.  Sunshine jelly is definitely a “keeper” in the recipe box.

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.  Or in this case, when weeds grow, make Sunshine jelly.


Until next time…Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

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  1. Rebecca says:

    I can’t wait to try this….I don’t know why I’ve never thought to do it sooner. When I was growing up, my mom made jelly from everything imaginable. And she and my dad knew all the safe weeds to eat. Needless to say, we ate a lot of them! I love your post; it brought back some very good memories.

    Thanks, Rebecca!  I’m glad you enjoyed the post!  I think of all the jams and jellies I’ve made, this is my favorite, despite being a bit tedious.  Try eating it on bread with a slice of cheddar and the jelly on top.  Let me know how your jam turns out! -Nicole

  2. Adrienne says:

    I haven’t tried making dandelion jelly because I’m too busy including the greens with my other "greens" and reds and yellows in my salads and soups. For lunch every day, I try to eat a salad varying the ingredients with the seasons (which in California means I have access to just about everything year round) and a soup. Why do I eat so many salads and soups? I’m a vegetarian and the diet has helped me lose 55 pounds so far. I was a bit of a slug after radiation and recovery took longer than expected. However, I do trade some food for jam with those who have the time and space to prepare it. I’ll see if my foraging friends have any plans for making dandelion jelly.

    Hi Adrienne!  I’m so happy to hear that you are doing better; it sounds like now you are on the up side to recovery.  I wish you continued good health.  I love to eat soup and salad for lunch, too.  It’s a good way to get more veggies during the day.  Thanks for dropping in and leaving a comment!  Farmgirl hugs, Nicole

  3. Laurie Dimino says:

    Hi Nicole!
    Looks like you had some fun with this one- not to mention, I bet you proved a lot of "doubting Thomas’" wrong!
    I have never made my own dandelion jam, although I have tried it and liked it. My friend actually came over to my yard a few years back and picked my dandelion flowers, because she knew I did not spray any chemicals on my lawn. LOL
    She did gift me with a jar when she made it which was great!
    Hope all is well with you, and that the warm weather is finally here to stay!
    Hugs to you my friend!
    Laurie

    Hi Laurie!  Another great reason NOT to spray chemicals on your lawn, right?  This was a fun adventure! Farmgirl hugs back at ya, Nicole

  4. cr lagroue says:

    I don’t know if I’ll make jelly anytime soon but this was interesting reading. I look at dandelions a little different now right before I pull them out of my lawn.

    That’s what my husband says when he says a dandelion now! I just had a gentleman who works at my local Trader Joes tell me to roast carrots in the oven with salt and pepper, and right before serving glaze them with the jelly.  He says it is delicious.  -Nicole

  5. Beverly Battaglia says:

    Nicole, I loved the article and wildflowers too. I once made a colored sketch in Texas Hill country of them. You must have a lot of dandelions on your property!
    Your writing is very interesting and you are brave to try some of those "weeds". Love you, Mother

    Hi Mom!  Your next goodie box will include a jar of this jam!  Love, Nicole

  6. Debbie says:

    Well, if anyone should be making Sunshine Jelly out of Dandelions it should be me! After all, our home and ( my blog) is called DANDELION HOUSE due to the amount of dandelions that grace our front yard every spring LOL! Every year I say I’m gonna do it but my husband picks them and feeds them to our hens before I can get to it. I’m glad to see you gave it a try Nicole! I sure does look good…!

    thanks for a fun and informative post!
    Deb ( your bloggin’ sis by the sea)

    Hey Darlin!  I promise you a jar of mine if we ever meet face to face! Hugs, Nicole

  7. darlene ricotta says:

    I think your blog is great and that the Sunshine Jelly looks great to make.
    Just have to find an abundant amount of dandelions somewhere when they start growing.
    Thanks.

    Darlene, thank you!  Glad you enjoyed the blog. Write me back and let me know how you jelly turns out when you make it!  Enjoy! -Nicole

  8. Ana says:

    I dont have dandilions lately, but, I live in California Central Valley, and the weeds here are different. Purselain grows aere and I use it in stirfrys and some Mexican traditional dishes. Are there any sources for recipes using the rest I’m not familiar with? I do grow a lot of Mexican herbs and greens so some wild ones look ok in my garden.

    Hi Ana.  Is there a local extension office in your area?  They are great for knowing exactly grows in a region, and could maybe point you to a local foraging class.  It’s very important to know what is edible and not, and some weeds can look similar.  If you are not absolutely sure what something is or not, don’t eat it. -Nicole

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