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Montessori Foraging Activity - Picking and Cooking Dandelions in Spring

Are dandelions edible?

It may come as a surprise, but those common flowers we often consider nuisance weeds at this time of year are actually 100% edible - from root to flower, every part of a dandelion is not only safe for consumption, but tasty and healthy, too!

How We Used Our Dandelions

This 25 second video shows you quickly what we did with our dandelions.

Are dandelions nutritious?

Dandelions are super healthy! They are full of antioxidants and vitamins making them extremely beneficial for your health.

What can you make with dandelions?

Dandelion and sunflower seed bread

Dandelions are so easy to incorporate into many dishes in the kitchen, and what's more, they are a great addition to many recipes. Sylvester and I added dandelion petals to cupcakes and bread this weekend. Many people steep dandelions to make a delicious tea, or serve the leaves in salads with a dash of olive oil. You can even use dandelions to make an amazing, sweet vegan (bee-free) honey!

Why do people associate dandelions with wetting the bed?

This has always made me chuckle. As a British person, whenever my children reach out to pick the dandelions on our lawn, my inner child hears my mum or older sister's voice saying "Don't pick the dandelions, you'll wet the bed!" - the worry of that actually coming true when I was a child was surely enough to stop me in the act when I was a child! So what's that about?

Well, it seems that there's a chemical in dandelions that make them an effective diuretic. Diuretics, in Western medicine, help the body to rid excess water. So I suspect a long time ago, people must have noticed the effect of this, and the association stuck. The French name for dandelion is "pissenlit", which literally translates as "wee in bed"!

Are dandelions easy to forage?

Sylvester collection dandelions montessori toddler

As easy as ABC - and foraging makes for engaging and fun springtime walks. When Benedykt and Sylvester spotted the few dandelions we had popping up in the garden this weekend, Benedykt asked if we can do something with them. It sparked a memory of a friend saying you could make tea with them. We did a quick on-the-spot Google search, and we decided to head to the woodlands to find some more. We dumped some toys out of a couple of wicker baskets, donned our wellies, and off we went!

Are dandelions easy to find?

Benedykt foraging dandelions

On our walk, it occurred to me that dandelions are only easy to find when you're not looking for them. We dismissed the huge patch of dandelions on the green at the front of our house in favour of a long woodland walk, but we ended up walking for an hour before we saw any again - d'oh! It seems that dandelions pop up either side of common walkways, and are less easy to find in natural woodland. However, when you do find them, you generally find that dandelions are clustered en masse and you'll have no trouble gathering what you need.

How many do you need to use to cook?

Depending on the recipe, you'll need anywhere from 50-300 dandelion heads. It sounds a lot, but trust me, when you get picking, they add up fast. We gathered 2 full baskets which was more than enough for what we wanted to do with them. One of the bread recipes we found on YouTube suggested about 1-1.5 cups of dandelion heads, but we didn't even measure them, we totally eyeballed it!

Preparing the Dandelions Before Use

Preparing dandelions for use in bread and cake recipe

Sylvester's personalised Montessori placemat is available from the shop.

Since 100% of the dandelions are edible, you don't have to worry about snipping certain parts off. However, the green part of the plant is significantly more bitter in taste than the yellow petals, so bare that in mind. For adding to bread and cakes, we first removed the petals. If you hold the flower at the green part underneath then roll it between your thumb and forefinger, you will find it a lot easier to tear out the petals in chunks, rather than ripping at them without rolling them. 

separating petals from dandelions

After separating the petals, we ran them under the tap to give them a quick wash. We weren't concerned about any sprays from where we foraged ours, but they are often home to many little insects so we wanted to be sure to be rid of those first. That's all the prep required!

Adding Dandelions to Bread

Dandelion bread montessori foraging

We have been making bread at home for fun for a while, and we have the basic dough recipe down to a T, and we tweak it every time we make some. To make a basic loaf, you need 300g (bread) flour, 7g instant yeast, 200ml warm liquid (water or milk or any ratio of both). Sometimes I use 50:50 wholemeal flour to bread flour, sometimes just strong bread flour. For the loaf in the video, we added a handful of sunflower seeds and a handful of dandelion petals.

Adding Dandelions to Cupcakes

Sylvester with dandelion cupcakes

Similar to the bread, Sylvester simply threw in a handful of dandelion petals to a very basic cake recipe (100g butter, 2tbsp honey, 2 eggs, 110g self-raising flour, 1 tsp baking powder, 1tsp vanilla extract). 

Making Dandelion Honey

Dandelion honey is an amazing alternative to bee honey, which is vegan and of course PERFECT for babies under 1 year old.

I honestly had no idea that dandelion honey was a thing, but it turns out it makes for an awesome practical life Montessori activity, just like all of these recipes! We still had loads of dandelions left over after the small amount we used in our baking, so I steeped them on the hob in 1l of water, topped with a sliced lemon.

Dandelion honey filtering

I brought it to the boil, let it simmer for a while and then left it for a few hours. When I returned to it, I filtered out the flowers and kept only the liquid. I used a colander and a washcloth to filter the liquid.

 

I discarded the flowers, then added 700g sugar to the "juice" and brought it to the boil once again and let it simmer for about an hour. Most recipes suggested 1kg sugar, but we try to avoid sugar, so I suspect our honey turned out a little "runnier" than most. If anyone finds a sugar free recipe, let me know!

DANDELION JUICE

 

Our finished honey turned out looking gorgeous and tasting perfectly sweet. Benedykt and Sylvester enjoyed it in their overnight oats, and my husband and I have enjoyed it in coffee. It's slightly runnier than normal honey, but it would totally work on toast, too!

Dandelion honey in jars
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