Sunday, April 1, 2012

Spring eats

There are about a billion reasons why my body and soul feel revitalized in the spring time. Green trees and flowers. Warm rain, and longer days. Birds chirping everywhere! If you ask me, I think spring is dreamy. Among the many things I love so much about spring, I especially love the burst of new foods in my diet, especially in contrast to the hearty winter foods I have spent the past few months nourishing my hibernating body with. And while 80 degree days make me think of lemonade and fresh greens, there are many other hidden foods that are popping up everywhere, even in our own back yards. Friends, let the foraging begin! 

Urban foraging is one of the most rewarding hobbies, because so many things grow in great abundance throughout the city, and because not everyone is thinking of harvesting these wild edibles, there is generally plenty for the taking. 

Two of my favorite spring eats are violets and dandelions. Weeds to some, but treats to me! With both, I like to use the flowers for jam. Both plants also have edible leaves that are a tasty addition to a salad. Violet jam is very quick and yields a vibrant-colored jelly with a little tang. Some people also like to use violet flowers as a burst of flavor in their salads or otherwise candied. Dandelion jam is a bit sweeter and tastes a lot like honey to me (it even looks like honey!). 
Violet Jam
1 cup of violet flowers, packed
1 1/2 cups of water, divided into 3/4 cups and 3/4 cups
2 tablespoons of fresh squeezed lemon juice
2 1/2 cups of sugar
1 package of pectin

1. In a blender, blend violet blossoms and 3/4 cups of water. After blended, add the lemon juice (note: the lemon juice changes the color of the violets, so pay attention for some color-changing fun!) Slowly add in the sugar and blend until it is a consistent paste.

2. In a small sauce pan combine the remaining 3/4 cup of water and the package of pectin. Bring to a boil and boil rapidly for 1 minute (this is time sensitive, so watch the clock). After one minute, remove from heat and pour into blender, and blend for 1 minute. The jam will begin to set at this point, so be sure to blend for only a minute or your jam will be lumpy.

3. Pour into jelly jars and store in the refrigerator for 3 weeks or in the freezer for 3 months.
Dandelion Jam
4 cups of dandelion blossoms (removed from the greens of the plant, see photos below)
4 cups of water
4 teaspoons of lemon juice
1 package of pectin
2 1/2 cups of sugar

1. Separate the yellow petals from the base of the plant, saving only the yellows and composting the rest. 
2. Bring the water to a boil, and add the dandelion blossoms. Boil them for about 10 minutes, and then strain the blossom tea, and return to a boil. 

3. Add lemon juice, pectin and sugar, and follow the directions according to the particular pectin's instructions (using pectin is an art in itself, and not following the directions, can cause a failed batch! Be sure to follow the directions.) The cooking jelly should boil up in the pan (careful not to let it overflow!) and this is a good sign that your jelly will set. 

4. Boil until the jam is thickened and then pour into sanitized jars and quickly lid them. Allow the jars of jelly to set in room temperature for 24 hours, so they can set. 

**As for all foraging, you have to be careful that you are harvesting the plant that you think you are harvesting. Be sure to check once, twice even three times, with different resources to make sure you are harvesting the right plant, as some plants may have look-alikes that are not tasty and may even be poisonous. Also, with urban foraging, be sure you are not harvesting from areas that are sprayed with pesticides or herbicides and wash your harvest before using.**
Also, consider these other spring-time urban eats:
Nettles (careful! they sting) 
Day-lily buds and blooms
Clover blooms
... to name just a few. There are many more! 

Happy April and happy foraging!


  1. My violet jam turned out pink when I canned it and almost clear without canning. I used the purple violets only, but did keep them in the fridge a couple days before getting around to making the jam. Would that have affected the color?

    Forager from Grand Island

    1. I have never encountered pink jam before when making violet jam, however the color of the violets do change when you add the lemon juice! For me, the jam changes from a grey-ish purple to a fuchsia/pinkish purple color (excuse the absurd color names). I am not sure why they would turn out clear for you? One thing you could try in the future would be to use more violets and use them fresh. I have made it in the past where I have doubled the violets, added a splash more water and kept the other ingredients the same, and it just boosts the flavor you get from the flowers!

      Also, note that with this jam you should always keep it in the fridge, even if the canning jar seals. It is a refrigerator/freezer jam and may not store well on the shelf.

      Hope the is helps and happy canning!
      Forager from Omaha