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The Darling things of May, and making Dandelion Honey

Tewkesbury Gloucestershire Days Out

Of all the months of the year, I do think May is my favourite. It brings blossom and buds to our garden. Heady with the promise of roses and future apples, all through the village the Cherry Trees put on a riot, and the Bluebells bloom in happy swathes in the verges.

May also brings friends, and the return of fun to be had that only warmer weather and a whole day of sunshine can bring. So far I have made some very happy memories with a sortie to my hometown, as well as something sweet for the pantry shelves.

English Country Garden MayOur Apple tree in blossom

The Darling buds, and birds, of May

It has been a week of gathering for all. The birds gather for their nests, and I’ve been particularly enchanted by a female Blackbird who has been collecting lots of moss and dried grass, busying herself with creating a new home in our garden hedge. She can carry quite an impressive amount in her beak, on some trips her nesting material has been almost big as her. Her neighbours, the Wrens, are already restless with their brood who chirp loudly for their supper.

We also have a pair of Goldfinches who seem to have made our garden their home this spring, and many butterflies are already out and about peppering the air with their lovely colours. The Blackthorn at the end of the garden is covered in delicate white vanilla-sweet scented flowers, I shall look forward to collecting Sloes from it come autumn time.

While the birds gather for their nests, I too have been gathering for mine in the form of Dandelions for some “Meadow Honey”, or Dandelion Honey, whichever you prefer to call it. I think Meadow sounds more romantic, as you can also put Daisy petals, or even Clover flowers in if you’re lucky to spot some.

This is the first year I have made it, and it won’t be the last. I got the idea from a vintage foraging book that I have had for many years, and with only a few simple ingredients you can turn what most people consider a weed into the most delicious sweet syrup. It’s barely a recipe, as most things in vintage books are, because it seems people spent a lot more time foraging and cooking from scratch, so it was assumed it was all common knowledge and they “just knew” what to do. Here’s how mine was made…

How to make Dandelion Honey

Making Dandelion HoneyDandelion Honey Ingredients

Make sure to gather the Dandelion heads on a dry day. When the sun is at its highest is best as they like to close up at the first hint of rain, or darkness. I collected mine from the Churchyard in our village from an area that hadn’t been sprayed (very important), as well as from my own garden. It’s a good idea to only collect them when there are masses about, as Dandelions are a good source of essential nourishment for insects early in the Spring, so you don’t want to take them all.

England In MayOur Churchyard

It’s hard to give exact measurements, but I collected enough Dandelion heads to fill my colander (which yielded 5 small jars of varying sizes). Then I spent a quiet hour pulling the petals from the flower heads. You only want the yellow petals, as the green parts are very bitter. I then gave the petals a very quick plunge and rinse in cold water (mostly to get rid of any bugs), then strained them and put them in a large glass jar. I then poured over boiling water, covered it, and left it all to infuse overnight.

The next day, I strained the (now very yellow) water through a fine sieve to remove the petals, reserving the “infusion”. I then added to it the juice of two lemons, and then measured the amount of liquid. I had 1 litre. (For my American friends, this is approx 4 cups).

Put the liquid in a saucepan over a low heat and add an equal amount of sugar to liquid. I used 1kg Caster Sugar (again, around 4 cups). Stir on a low heat until the sugar has dissolved and then bring to a rolling boil for 15 minutes. You will eventually end up with a thick syrup. You can add a scant tablespoon of Cream of Tartar to help it along if you wish, this will “bind” the syrup but won’t affect the flavour.

The finished product won’t be as thick as honey, but it looks very similar, and with the floral hint - makes a great substitute for vegans, or those who have allergies to honey. If you don’t like citrus flavours, feel free to omit or reduce the amount of lemon you add.

I poured the syrup into hot sterilised jars and sealed the lids immediately (you don’t need to water bath the jars). This syrup will keep for a few months, and make sure to refrigerate once you open a jar. Always rely on your senses of sight and smell to check if it is still good when you open a new jar. As with all preserving and canning - you take responsibility for yourself!

Meadow Honey is a very versatile recipe as you can add other edible flowers or petals to mix up the taste, and the batches can be made small or large depending on what you can gather - you only need equal parts sugar to infused liquid.

How To Make Dandelion Honey HomemadeHomemade Dandelion (or Meadow) Honey


Taking Teapots & Tablecloths to Tewkesbury

It had been far too long since I had seen Lydia, and I was very happy to finally have a visit from her (and the sunshine), last weekend. We had this date planned for such a long time! We have done some really special and fun things (which usually end up a bit expensive) like afternoon tea at Blenheim Palace, and fun days out to Highclere - but there truly is nothing better than sharing your hometown, and a simple lunch with a best friend.

Lydia TeapotsandtableclothsThe lovely Lydia

We trawled the shops for vintage and secondhand treasures, and settled on lunch in the garden at The Abbey Tea Rooms. Pixie and Ian have owned it for 19 years, having moved to Tewkesbury from Oxford, and in that time have filled the place with little items of nostalgia, collectibles and vintage curious. We could have stayed and looked around for hours! As the weather was fine we chose to enjoy our sandwiches, tea, and scones in the garden which felt like a hidden gem.

The Abbey Tea Rooms TewkesburyThe Abbey Tea Rooms Tewkesbury

If you are looking for a good place to hunt for vintage and secondhand things, then Tewkesbury really is a good town to do it in. There is so much history here, with lots of old properties. Even my very first home that I rented was incredibly old! Lydia was kind enough to take a picture of me outside it - you never think to do these things when you live there. It hasn’t been my home now for almost twenty years (gulp, that ages me), but the happy memories of Sunday mornings enjoying the peals of the Abbey bells calling people to worship are seared in my mind. The whole place literally reverberates, and whomever lives in this place now is very lucky indeed - and hopefully not hungover!

Visit TewkesburyOutside my first (pink) home

It would have been a crime not to have shown Lydia the Abbey, given that we are both history enthusiasts, and our chatter soon turned quite studious when we talked about the fact that Margaret of Anjou sought sanctuary here after The Battle of Tewkesbury, a decisive conflict during the Wars of the Roses. England would not look as it does today without her influence, and indeed that battle!

Thedarlingacademy TeapotsandtableclothsLydia & I outside Tewkesbury Abbey

All too soon it was time to head back to mine, and for Lydia to depart for north. I’m really pleased we got to spend such quality time together, and we found some wonderful things, not least a first edition of a Miss Read book that so many of you suggested to me after my last post!

Vintage Home ShoppingMy vintage finds from our day out. The pretty Tulips and Lladro swan were from Lydia.

It’s always lovely to look back on days like this, which is why I hope you don’t mind me sharing more of my diary with you now? So many of you seem to prefer posts like this, and it is better for my heart to write them! After so much “press”, and trying to convince a world of something it wants to reject, a spot of whimsy is a nice tonic, is it not? I know it makes my life feel a little more darling.

But the best tonic is a breakfast of pancakes with Meadow Honey…

Dandelion Syrup Recipe PancakesLydia's family say the honey is great on pancakes!

Not to mention a good book, a cup of tea, and a Coronation Chocolate Carriage that Lydia gifted to me. Sweet friends indeed! I just hope we both still have our teeth when we’re old ladies. It’ll make the chatting all the harder if we don’t!

The Coronation Party Norma Curtis

Have a fabulous Coronation weekend my darlings, I hope it’ll be filled with very happy memories for you.

Until next time,

Alena x

With love and thanks

As ever, thank you to the wonderful Patrons of The Darling Academy, if you like our values here, please would you kindly consider supporting the blog? It is always much appreciated when you let me know which posts you enjoy the most, it is always so lovely to hear from you. I am afraid I do not have the time to reply to every message, but please do know I read every one.


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