Backyard Foraging: Dandelion Cordial


When the Fella and I made the transition from home-owning-urban-professionals to crazy-couple-that-sleeps-in-their-car, we had to decide what to do with our entire houseful of stuff. Kitchen equipment, books, dishes, tools, books, old photos, birthday cards from Aunt Matilda, clothes, books—we just couldn’t fit it all into our little gypsy Chevy Suburban. We had to get serious about getting rid of things.

Economically, I could see that it made sense to let go of the IKEA ‘365+’ dishes that cost us 50p for a 3 million-piece set, rather than shipping it over to America for the low low price of our future firstborn child. After all, there will surely be another IKEA wherever we choose to set up our next home, and the ease of replacing the dishes is the reason we bought them in the first place.


The problem is, I don’t like to be wasteful. Why get rid of a perfectly serviceable set of white dishes? All of our friends had their own, and there is apparently not a market for second-hand IKEA anything. But we couldn’t just throw them out, so we boxed them up and put them in our London attic. Just in case we move back.

Then we boxed up several hundred books that we may read again, and a million cords and wires that Hubs insists are useful in some capacity. We stored old keepsakes, and artwork, and appliances, and it all went with the dishes. Then we took what we really, truly couldn’t live without, and shipped it to the US for the low low price of our future firstborn child’s left leg—a significant discount, I think you’ll agree.


In the two months it took for the shipment to arrive in Maine, I had forgotten exactly what was in there. When the delivery man dumped a full pallet of boxes into my grandmother’s field with a weighty thud, I worried that we could have been a little more ruthless in our packing.

It’s easier to chuck someone else’s stuff. Last week we flew down to my mother’s house in North Carolina to help her get it ready for long-term renters while she joins our nomad’s club. She says she did a lot of organizing before we arrived, and I’m not saying she’s delusional or anything, but…well…it wasn’t always easy to see evidence of her efforts. Closets, drawers, dressers, cabinets…everything was full.


We only had a week to get the job done and drive her back up to Maine, so resorted to playing ‘keep, store, or toss’ at bullet speed. Occasionally we put Mom under duress, like when we tried to get her to pare down her international seashell collection to just one box. Seriously, this was a painful process for her.

I was reminded a little of Leslie, my best friend from college. On the day we were supposed to be on the road home at the end of our first year, I watched her slowly pack her dorm room. She gently fished button after button out of her collection from a mason jar, holding each one up to the light and saying ‘Oh…look at this one. I really like this one!,’ then put it in the ‘keep’ pile with all the others.


It just goes to prove the cliché that one girl’s junk is another girl’s treasure. I can roll my eyes all I want at the seashell- and button-keepers of the world, but the truth is that a large portion of the trans-Atlantic pallet of boxes I unwrapped contained my cookbook collection. And let’s face it, if you’re going to hold on to something through all the moves in your life, at least buttons are light and small enough to fetch a favorable shipping rate. I’m sure Leslie’s future firstborn will thank her when she meets my little one-legged bundle of joy.

In honor of junk and treasure, we’ve been picking dandelions. Lots of them. While the man across the street has been diligently mowing his down, Hubs and I have been crawling around the field with our noses in the grass, gathering as many as we can. We have intentions to make dandelion wine, but haven’t gotten around to it yet. In the meantime, I’ve used the petals in a cordial.

In the UK, cordial is usually associated with elderflower. It is not alcoholic, but is more like a concentrated syrup which you can add to soda water or cocktails. I’ve replaced the classic flowers with dandelion, which is delicate, fragrant, and tastes a little like honey. In the future I’d probably reduce the amount of lemon by half, so it doesn’t overpower the flowers.


Dandelion Cordial

  • 4 oz dandelion heads
  • 1 1/2 pints water
  • 1 lb sugar
  • 1 oz citric acid (you can buy this online or find it in the canning section of supermarkets or hardware stores)
  • 2 lemons


First, prepare the dandelions. *Warning: this is a bit tedious, but put on some nice music and get comfortable, and it won’t be so bad. If you look at the flower from the side, you’ll see a green bud holding all of the yellow petals together. Just slice off the green bud and discard it, and reserve the petals for the cordial.

Put the water into a pot on the stove and bring to a boil, then take off the heat. Stir the sugar in and let it dissolve, then let the whole thing cool.

Grate the zest of the two lemons, then slice the lemons into thin rounds and add it all to the sugar water.

Add the citric acid and dandelion petals to the mixture, then cover the pot with a cloth and set it aside to steep for two days.

Strain the liquid out with a fine sieve or cheesecloth, then pour into bottles or jars for future use.

Serve a splash of cordial in soda water, and add a shot of vodka if you’re feeling festive.


Anonymous said...

Oh dear... my future grandchild may be a one-legged bundle of joy???? Seriously... the seashell trauma was tough, but handled with loving sensitivity, most appreciated. Tender guidance in what to keep or toss is a blessing in such times.
Dandelion cordial was delicious! (Especially after a day of PHASE 1, cleaning out Great Grandma's lifetime accumulations...) XOXO

Sarah E. Hoffman said...

Nice alternative to making dandelion wine! Thanks for the recipe - and the story! Too cute!

Stephfret said...

Mom- I'll make you a dandelion cocktail to ease the trauma!

Sarah- Thanks! Glad you enjoyed it!

Charissa said...

I bet this is crazy healthy for you as well. I would love to see a post talking about the benefits of dandelions!

Becky Bakes said...

What beautiful pictures! I've always looked at dandelions as pretty weeds but not edible.

Stephfret said...

Charissa- I do believe they are supposed to have a lot of health benefits, though everything I've read talks about the leaves and roots...not sure about steeping the petals as I've done here.

Becky Bakes- Thanks! The leaves are also edible in salads, and I've even seen a recipe for French cream of dandelion soup. You should pick the leaves before they flower though, as they get bitter as they mature.

Heguiberto said...

Very cool Story. It's hard to let things go but when you do you feel liberated! I would fight for my cookbooks though :)

Did you eat the dandelion greens? I absolutely love bitter flavors. Now I learned what to do with the flowers too. May I have it with gray goose please.



Stephfret said...

Heguiberto- Thanks! I tried the greens but they're supposedly better before the plant flowers, and I was too late for that. Next year I'm going to start earlier! I agree, grey goose and dandelion sounds like a good combo:)

Leesy Garden Service said...

Love it!!! Ive been wanting time to make dandelion wine for ever! Granted the dandys I run across never have a chance to make flower! :)

Stephfret said...

LGS- Have you ever tried dandelion wine? Is it anything like mead? Definitely want to try making it...have my eye on the field across the street, if I can just beat the mower to them...

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