As beekeepers we love dandelions. That bright yellow fluffy flower that comes out early in the spring provides nourishment for our bees long before the blossoms on fruits and vegetables are available. The common dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) belongs to the Aster family. In the Aster family each flower is a head of tiny florets crowded together. These florets reflect ultraviolet light which attracts pollinators and other insects.
While there are some native dandelions in North America, the common dandelion was introduced by European immigrants in the early to middle 17th century. The plant was planted in family gardens and used for food and for medicine. Not until the 20th century, when perfectly manicured green lawns became a symbol of status did the dandelion become a weed.
Dandelions are rich in calcium, vitamin A and Vitamin C. They have been used for centuries to treat stomach and liver ailments and in more recent time to improve the quality of skin. Each part of the dandelion plant can be used to eat, make into infused oils, teas or tinctures. At Almosta Farm we utilize the flowers to make dandelion infused oil that goes into healing salves and we use the roots to make a tincture that is effective for liver detoxification
We decided to try something a little more fun so this year we also made dandelion jelly. While we don’t profess that the jelly has medicinal qualities, we do know that it tastes great. The first time our son tried it he thought it was honey.
We only harvest dandelions from our farm so we know they have not been sprayed with any chemicals. We also are very thoughtful in our harvesting practices. When we harvest just the heads we make sure we only take minimum flower heads, leaving much of the bounty for the bees. When we harvest the entire dandelion we do so when there is an abundance of food for pollinators and then with care so the dandelions will be sustainable.
If you want to try some dandelion jelly before you buy it you can arrange a visit to Almosta Farm (after the social distancing restrictions have been lifted) and we will provide a sample. We will also have it available to sample during the 2nd Annual Union County Farm Crawl, which will be held on 28 June. If you would like to learn to make your own jelly let us know and we will set up a class.