Potted gold

I’m not one to pick dandelions without good cause; they’re such an amazing plant for so many insects and birds. But I do like a few young leaves in a salad and will dig up roots to make a mineral-rich, caffeine-free coffee. Until now though I’d never tried to make anything edible from the flowers (natural play dough doesn’t count as who wants to eat that?!).

This year the garden is simply teaming with dandelion flowers and there’s plenty to go round for everyone. And when a colleague said she was making dandelion ‘honey’ I was intrigued. “It’s even vegan”, she volunteered, “well, apart from the bugs!”. I’m not a vegan, so I wasn’t worried about a little extra protein and thought I’d give it a try.

One recipe needed 350g of flowerheads. That’s a lot of flowers, especially if you follow the instructions and pull off all the green bits as they can make it too bitter. I started with good intentions and began picking them all off and then realised, even in a national lockdown, that life is simply too short for that.

So, I compromised and took some off and picked half the recipe’s worth, which still took a while. But there’s much worse ways to spend a sunny Spring day than wandering around the garden picking dandelion flowers.

I made mine by adding half a lemon (thinly sliced) and 0.5l of water to the flowers and simmering them gently for about 20 minutes. Leave the mixture in a glass bowl overnight.

In the morning I strained off the liquid through a sieve and put the mush in the compost. Then I added 300g of granulated sugar (it’s supposed to be golden, but getting any sugar at all is a minor achievement at the moment, so I made do with what I had). That’s also a quarter less sugar than most recipes, but it was fine.

Stir the sugar until it dissolves and then simmer for about 45 minutes until it becomes like a thin syrup. Don’t, whatever you do, think that it’s simmering away quite happily and go off to feed the chickens, only to come back to find it’s boiled over and burnt sugar is now ingrained in your hob.

If you haven’t left it to boil over, then you should have enough for two small jars of ‘honey’, which isn’t as good as the real thing, but is surprisingly tasty and a fun way to spend a few hours.

Slow Gardening


Time is something most of us don’t have enough of.  I could do with several more hours each day to fit everything in, but when I actually stop and think about it, I’d probably just whizz around like a blue bottomed fly in those as well so maybe it’s a good job I don’t.

It was a timely reminder of the importance of slowing down once in a while when I found myself contemplating a snail crossing my path for a good ten minutes. My daughter had spotted this particular snail some way off, slowly ambling along.

However, there was no question of us walking around it. “We have to wait for the snail to pass,” I was told, quite firmly. You know those times when you can sense a meltdown fast approaching if you disagree? It was one of those. So, we stood there patiently waiting for the snail to make his way across our drive.

To begin with, I was a bit annoyed, thinking of all the things that needed doing, but then it (slowly) dawned on me that it was actually quite relaxing to do nothing other than just watch this snail. To take in all the colours and patterns on his shell; to watch it rock side to side gently as it moved. My daughter was completely focussed and it made me realise that as adults, the times we spend completely engrossed in nature are often few and far between.

I tend to think of myself as in touch with nature as I spend so much time outside in the garden or allotment but if I’m entirely honest, a lot of that time I’m not really taking it all in; I’m thinking about the next job that needs to be done.

Therefore, in honour of my completely made up ‘Slow Gardening Movement (well, we can have it for food and all sorts else, so why not?) this month’s blog is not going to give you something to do or make in the garden with your children. I challenge you instead to do as little as possible.

Just breathe in a little bit of nature together, wherever you are. Kick off your shoes and socks, sit on the grass and feel very blade between your toes; lie on your backs and watch the clouds go by. Go on, try it. You might like it. And besides, all the jobs that need doing will still be there tomorrow…..