On May 11, I hosted a camp where we were supposed to make dandelion jelly. I had all these beautiful ideas in my head about the kids picking a huge bowl of blossoms out in the back field with the bees and other pollinators, their, fingers becoming stained yellow with pollen… how romantic. Of course, this is not how it happened in real life.
“Jelly, what’s that?” one of the girls asked.
“Well, it’s like jam, except there are no chunks in it, and we can make it from flowers!”
“THAT SOUNDS GROSS!!” They replied in chorus. “EWWWW! WE ARE NOT MAKING THAT!! DISGUSTING!!”
Well, that stumped me. For a moment.
“Wait… we could make dandelion GUMMIES. Would that be better?”
“YES!!” It was unanimous. GUMMIES were obviously WAY better than jelly.
While we were waiting for our gummies to set in the freezer, we went outside and picked dandelions in the front yard. I showed the girls something my dad taught me when I was a little kid: that if you pick the largest dandelion stem you can find and take off its flower, it makes a noise like a kazoo! It takes a bit of patience to find the right stem, and sometimes you have to break it shorter and shorter before it will start to make noise. It’s some kind of magic that happens when the dandelion milk in the bottom of the stem starts to vibrate, so it helps to have a juicy one! Two of the girls got bored and wandered away to play tag with Vinnie the sheep. But Avery was very excited about playing dandelions. “This is the best day of my life!” she exclaimed. “Now I can annoy everyone FOREVER!”
As we cut up, divided up and packaged our very own homemade dandelion gummies, I realized this gummie making is an incredible way to get even the most squeamish of kids interested in the world that is growing all around them. If seasonal edible flower gummies can lead them to being able to identify a few species growing in their own back yard, then they learn to have a relationship with that particular plant, and that relationship can be a gateway to curiosity. In what other ways that plant can be used? What kind of environment does it like to grow in? Knowing a single plant intimately is enough to make the natural world come alive. I bet that even from reading this post you will notice dandelions more. Your awareness of them will become sharper, more open. And this kind of curiosity- this relatedness- is precious. It leads to a sense of belonging to the maze of green abundant life that exists outside our windows, the same way that knowing a friend in a crowd makes being amongst that many strangers less overwhelming. So if all we need is a few cups of cane sugar to kindle this relationship, then so be it!
And don’t worry, I am going to give you recipes. I am also going to acknowledge I am leading you on a little, as dandelion season is almost completely over in Pemby. Don’t worry, you can use any edible fragrant flower to make your gummies. That means, lilacs = yes. Peonies = yes. And those wild roses that are just starting to bloom? Yes, you can use those too!!
First, you need to make a flower syrup. I make mine in big batches, as I like to be able to keep some to make into summer drinks (a few tbsp and a bit of mineral water over ice on a hot day = heavenly). Please note that the syrup recipe is not intended to be canned, as the proportions are not tested for safety. So please keep your syrups in the fridge! I am confident you will use them up before they have a chance to go bad. This recipe makes about 6c of syrup, which is quite a lot. You can always halve or quarter the amounts if you want to make a smaller batch.
2c flower petals
4c cane sugar
1 organic lemon, sliced
- Prepare your flowers. It is best to harvest them in full sun at the height of the day. (From noon to 3 pm.) That way the flowers will retain the most potency and fragrance. Whichever kind of flower you are using, do your best to use only the petals. (In the case of dandelions, this means removing the green base of the flower.) Use flowers as close as you can to the time of harvest, as they will lose potency as soon as they are picked.
- Bring the water to a boil and add the cane sugar and stir until dissolved.
- Add flower petals and sliced lemon and cover your pot or bowl with a tea towel or cheesecloth to keep out flies, and leave out at room temperature to infuse for 2-4 days, stirring once per day. You want to optimize the length of your infusion without your syrup starting to ferment. If you see lots of bubbles or you are happy with the flavour, it’s time to move onto step 4…
- Strain and bottle your syrup. Enjoy!
1c flower syrup
3pkj (3tbsp) gelatin*
- Find a mould for your gummies. I used the bottom of a tupperware container and cut them into squares, but you could get super creative here. You don’t need parchment or non stick spray or anything.
- Heat your flower syrup until just before boiling. Separate 1/4 -1/2 c of syrup and shake or whisk the Gelatin into it. (I used a small Mason jar and shook it to combine the gelatin, then strained out the residual lumps using a tea strainer as I feel you get less foam this way.)
- Add the gelatin mix to the rest of your syrup, stir well to combine, then pour it into your mould. If foam has accumulated on top of your gummy, skim it off with a spoon.
- Let your gummies set. I put mine in the freezer, but if you are not in such a rush you can just leave them out.
- To get your gummy out of the mould, dip your mould into warm water for a few minutes (being careful not to get water on your gummy). Then run a knife around the edge of your mould and you should be able to pull it right out. Don’t be afraid to use your fingers to pull it out of the mould- you won’t wreck it.
- Now you can cut your gummy into shapes with a sharp knife or cookie cutter. You could also roll them in sugar and leave them out for a few days is you want a chewier texture. I was happy with mine as they were as I found them already quite sweet. If you don’t go the additional sugar method, I would keep your gummies in the fridge as they do have quite a bit of moisture in them and will mould if they are not devoured within the first few days. Enjoy!
*I used Knox Gelatin which comes pre-portioned in little paper packages, but I saw Stay Wild has boxed gelatin that is also gluten free!