Dipping Your Toes in DandelionPosted April 13, 2017
Introducing wild edibles to children is a treasured part of nature education. Early spring is a lovely time to start nibbling, cooking, and creating with preschoolers. At this point in the year, the classroom has become a close-knit community with a high level of trust between teachers and children. They trust us when small risks are encouraged like tasting a “weed!” And we teachers trust children to ask an adult that what they find is safe.
The first dandelions of the season are a great beginning plant to jump into wild edibles. Dandelions are easily identified, all parts are non-toxic, and very versatile. While dandelions are often plentiful, lessons in conservation and respect need to be acknowledged before gathering. Bees and other pollinators rely on these first blossoms, so it is essential to save plenty for them! Collect far from roads, which can leave remnants of exhaust, and avoid areas that have been treated with herbicides.
Children don’t need much encouragement to start filling a pail with dandelion flowers. Sitting on a blanket, separating petals from stalks is a lovely way to take in the spring sun. Making dandelion jelly or “gelatin jigglers” are two of my favorite uses. A quick computer search will give you plenty of recipes to choose from. For both, start by making a dandelion tea. Simply fill a quart jar at least halfway with flowers and then add boiling water to the brim. For a more delicately colored yellow tea, remove the green base of the blossom by pinching and twisting or cutting it off first. After steeping eight hours, strain and use the liquid in a jelly recipe with pectin and sweetener (sugar or honey) to make jelly. Stir in plain gelatin, sweetener and lemon juice and let set in a shallow pan for jigglers. Both result in a sweet, vitamin-filled treat with hints of honey.
You may be enticed to keep experimenting and creating! Dandelion leaf pesto? Sautéed dandelion greens? Fermented stems? Dandelion root coffee? Wine? Or take it another direction and make lip balm, hair rinse or salve. Either way, save time to make at least one dandelion crown!