Monday, May 21, 2012

Lacto-Fermented Dandelion Soda

lacto-fermented dandelion soda

Dandelions are probably the most well-known of the edible weeds, probably because they're the most ubiquitous, but they are also one of the most bitter of the bitter greens. They, in a way, give edible weeds a bad name. However, they're extremely nutritious, much more so than any storebought greens, and there are many ways to get past the bitterness, including using the right dressings if they're in a salad, blending them with banana in this green smoothie, or you can use the blossoms, as I will show you here, making an awesome naturally carbonated soda.

When you are ready to try it, first make up a batch of this all-purpose soda starter. It takes three days to make it, but once you have it you can use it for nearly any fermentation and it stores indefinitely in the fridge. What it does is jump start the process, sending your fermentations in the right direction from the beginning. 

Fermentation is the process of converting sugar to carbon dioxide (bubbles!), lactic acid, and sometimes alcohol. Fermented foods and drinks are part of virtually every traditional diet, and have so many health benefits. For another fermented beverage that's super easy to make, try homebrewed kombucha!

So, once your soda starter is bubbly and ready to use, it's harvest time. Send your kids out to the yard with a big bowl and have them fill it with every dandelion flower they can find. Children love meaningful work, and this is a fun job for them! The ideal flowers to use are fully open, large and clean, but don't worry about using half open blooms; they will still work. 


dandelion flowers

For a one-quart jar I filled this bowl with probably 5 cups of flowers, easily obtainable every few days in the weed-party that is my yard.

The next step is to separate the petals from the stem and as much of the green part as you'd like. Before making this, I had heard that you could only use the petals, none of the green sepals, and fully separating them sounded so tedious. When I recently read that it's just a matter of taste, that the green sepals impart a more bitter flavor, I readily jumped into the project. I don't mind a bit of  bitter, especially when I know the source is so nutrient rich. This is how I easily separate the flowers for my soda:


harvesting dandelion flowers

It's repetitive, but virtually tedium-free. I hold the petal section with my left hand and snip the butt-end off with kitchen shears or a knife. I am totally ok with the little bit of green that remains on the flowers, but if you want an extra step, and possibly a way better flavor, it would be easy to peel the remaining sepals off after making this snip.


how to make dandelion tea
In the end, you should end up with about a quart of flowers, and some junk ends to toss to the chickens.
The next step is to pour in boiling water. I have lost a favorite jar doing this, so now I, possibly superstitiously, place a metal utensil in any jar before I pour boiling water in it. Apparently, a spoon or whatever in the jar helps to distribute the heat so it's not such a shock to the glass. To play it even safer, I pour in a little water, let it warm the jar, and then fill it the rest of the way. It sucks to lose a good jar!


dandelion flower infusion
Filled and hot, cap the jar and set it aside for about 24 hours to make a strong infusion.
The next step is to strain out the flowers. Just pour through a strainer into a clean quart jar. Squeeze the flowers out, as they hold a lot of liquid. 

Now it's time to sweeten it. If you want to use a dry sweetener, like sucanat or sugar, you will need to heat the liquid and stir in the sugar to fully incorporate it. Because I have it on hand, I use agave since it can be added without the extra step of reheating the infusion. Stir in 1/4 c of agave, or 1/3 c sugar.


lacto-fermented dandelion soda
A few days after starting one jar, I found enough dandelions in my yard for a second batch!
After sweetening, let the infusion return to room temperature if it was heated, and then add about 1/4 c natural soda starter for each quart of liquid. Don't add the ginger bug to hot liquid because heat will destroy the starter.

Let this set, covered with a cloth napkin or dishtowel, for 3 days. Stir every 12 hours. Every time I stir a soda, I taste it. It should always taste a little sweet, although this dandelion soda does have a bitter taste as well. If you really think it's turning out horribly, you can always sweeten it more at any point. Fermentation uses up sugar, so it gets less sweet over time. 

After 3 days of this, it should be bubbly and ready to bottle. Cap tightly and store another 24 hours at room temperature, in German beer bottles or mason jars. 

This last step builds up carbonation so you have a nice, bubbly soda. It's important not to let them go too long or they could explode if enough internal pressure builds up in the bottles. 24 hours will be fine! After this, store them in the fridge, and drink at your leisure. Nik & I hesitantly tried a small amount when we had our first taste... and then we both had a big glass. It's very good, nothing to be scared of, though it does have a mild, bitter flavor and kind of smells like dandelions, for some reason ;)


lacto-fermented dandelion soda

If you want to try more of a crowd-pleasing soda, check out my recipe for ginger ale. It's easy and unquestionably tasty, whereas the dandelion soda is perhaps more for the connoisseurs and dandelion lovers.

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45 comments

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Rebecca
May 21, 2012 at 12:51 PM

At what point are you adding the all-purpose soda starter? After the first 24 hours when you sweeten since you'd kill it due to heat of the boiling water?

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May 21, 2012 at 2:45 PM

That is a good point! Since I didn't heat mine, it didn't matter and I could add the starter right after sweetening it. But you're right, I would definitely let the sweetened infusion cool down to just warm before adding the starter so you don't destroy it. I'll update the post with that info!

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May 22, 2012 at 1:10 PM

What? No way! I never would've thought of this! I just finished a whole series on dandelions, and only wish we still had more in our backyard so I could try this. Ah well, guess I'll just pin it for another time. This is way too cool :) By the way, as a total newbie to lacto-fermentation, how do you tell if the fermentation has produced alcohol or not? Is there some sort of test? (Aside from tasting it LOL). And more importantly, does this dandelion soda contain any alcohol at the end? Thanks for any help with my newbie questions :)

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May 22, 2012 at 4:02 PM

You know, when I started making this dandelion soda, I was actually thinking that I would make wine, but that takes more patience, and is more of a process, so I just decided to do soda. For alcohol to really be produced, it takes weeks rather than days. There is a device called a hydrometer, which we don't have, and if used correctly it can tell you the alcohol percentage in your final product. I've heard it's hard to get a reliable reading on them, so we don't bother. We just go by taste, and trust that after 3 days fermenting, not much alcohol is produced. It does vary though, because sometimes we get enough that we can taste it! One thing I love about fermenting is you never know exactly what it will turn out like. I would say that generally this is a "soft" drink, for sure. There is just a chance of alcohol.
Don't worry, you'll get more dandelions soon ;)

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May 27, 2012 at 11:54 PM

Hey, I am curious about fermenting and had a question: when you say that the ginger bug can be used for any fermentation, what do you mean? Does it replace the whey? Thanks in advance!

BTW found you in the Barn Hop, love your site!

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May 28, 2012 at 6:13 AM

Thank you! Yes, that's exactly right, the ginger bug replaces the whey. I don't have an abundance of whey, so when I first read Nourishing Traditions I was discouraged from trying most of her recipes because they all seemed to call for whey. The ginger bug works great for any of those traditional fermentation recipes, plus it tastes better.

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May 28, 2012 at 4:59 PM

Another new one for me! Though I think I will check out your ginger ale first - I just have a love-hate (or is it hate-hate?) relationship with dandelions. :-)

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May 28, 2012 at 5:38 PM

That's understandable! I think of the dandelion soda as medicinal, and I think that makes me like it more... and I only use the greens with plenty of other types of greens, so I don't taste them.

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May 29, 2012 at 6:40 PM

We appreciate you linking up to our "Strut Your Stuff Saturday." We love seeing all of the great recipes and fun ideas! Hope to see you again next week! -The Sisters

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May 30, 2012 at 9:28 AM

Coolness! I've got some why in the fridge and dandelions in the yard. Let's do this! ;)

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June 1, 2012 at 8:48 AM

I have got to try this!

Thanks for linking up at the Carnival of Home Preserving!

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June 6, 2012 at 8:19 PM

I don't know why I never got a notification for this reply - it's a common thing with Blogger posts... But thanks so much for answering my questions! That was very helpful! And thanks for linking up at Tiny Tip Tuesday this week!

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June 8, 2012 at 4:47 AM

What a fun idea!
Stopping by from Tiny Tip Tuesday :-)

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June 10, 2012 at 6:35 PM

Hi! May I use one of the images from this post in a post I'm writing for scoutiegirl.com? The image would link back to your blog if you like. Please let me know. thanks! Minna

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June 10, 2012 at 10:46 PM

Sure, just link it back here!

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August 14, 2012 at 12:45 AM

I make dandelion tea, but had never thought to use them to make "soda". What a healthy treat!

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October 5, 2012 at 5:56 AM

Alea, do you use just the petals for the tea? Sounds great!

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October 10, 2012 at 8:32 AM

Hi Emily,
I have never tried this before. Thanks for making it seem easy. Looks like a great recipe. Thank you so much for sharing with Wednesdays Adorned From Above Link Party last week. This weeks Link Party is opened at
http://www.adornedfromabove.com/2012/10/almond-sugar-body-scrub-and-wednesdays.html
from Wednesday until Sunday.
Hope to see you there.
Debi Bolocofsky
Adorned From Above
www.adornedfromabove.com

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February 23, 2013 at 2:18 AM

yes, indeed -it sucketh to lose a good jar.

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March 27, 2013 at 1:11 PM

sounds yummy! I would love to have you share this on The HomeAcre Hop tomorrow!
http://www.theselfsufficienthomeacre.com/2013/03/the-homeacre-h…iveaway-winner.html

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March 30, 2013 at 6:05 PM

This is so neat! I gotta find me some dandelions now...
Happy Easter and thanks for sharing this on WNWNW, I've pinned it :)

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April 29, 2013 at 12:07 PM

We have TONS of dandelions right now!

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May 1, 2013 at 8:58 AM

Thanks for the recipe...this sounds like a great use for dandelion flowers! Where did you get your soda starter? Thanks again for the info!

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May 7, 2013 at 11:57 AM

What a great way to use all those dandelions in my yard :) Thanks for sharing on Wildcrafting Wednesday! Hope to see you again tomorrow!
http://www.theselfsufficienthomeacre.com/2013/05/wildcrafting-wednesday-19.html

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Anonymous
May 30, 2013 at 3:30 PM

Wow..I just tried this Dandelion soda..only I added a tiny pinch of dry yeast to the ginger bug on day two because it wasn't working well. (It smelled sour. )Then it worked great.. After adding the dandelion flower infusion and the sugar it became bubbly after ONE day. I wondered if I could have bottled it at that point. As it is it has been 2 days now. I couldn't wait to try some. I find it tastes a bit like beer, stout in fact :) And I find it does have some alcohol in it, in fact more than I wanted. Should I perhaps have not fermented it as long? Thanks for this recipie. It has been a fun experience. Tatjana

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May 31, 2013 at 6:47 AM

It sounds like it turned out pretty good to me! I've never added commercial yeasts to my ferments, but it does seem like that would speed up the process. When it's bubbly it's done!

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Anonymous
June 2, 2013 at 2:43 PM

Thanks Mellow. I guess I should have bottled it after the first day of adding the dandelion extract if I had wanted less alcohol. Tatjana

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June 7, 2013 at 8:06 PM

Your ginger bug can be used in place of whey?! You have no idea how happy you just made me!! My son cannot tolerate dairy and I can't find vegetarian starter locally, so I had given up on fermenting anything other then vegetables. Now I can make all of the things that I was so excited about before!
This soda sounds great! It's unfortunate that we just yanked all of the dandelions out of our yard and froze all of our fresh ginger :( But I will be raiding my sister's yard and buying more ginger as soon as I can get to the store!
Thank you!!

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June 7, 2013 at 9:45 PM

I bet your sister won't mind a bit!
I also use my homemade kombucha in any recipe that calls for whey, or just to add to anything I want to ferment. So, if you make kombucha that's another option!

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June 13, 2013 at 6:21 AM

We eat dandelions in salads and such. Thanks for sharing your recipe with us at Eco-Kids Tuesday! Hope to see you again next week! http://likemamalikedaughter.blogspot.com/search/label/Eco-Kids%20Tuesday

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July 25, 2013 at 9:26 PM

I love dandelions- I will definitely have to try this! Popped over from the Weekend Re-Treat!

xx Kait | ChickadeeSays | ChickadeeSays Bloglovin

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July 30, 2013 at 2:51 PM

This/ you are so cool! I haven't done any of this before thank you for well written & friendly tutorial now I'm not so scared to give it a try :) michelle

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July 30, 2013 at 2:51 PM

This/ you are so cool! I haven't done any of this before thank you for well written & friendly tutorial now I'm not so scared to give it a try :) michelle

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August 19, 2013 at 5:39 PM

So clever! I love seeing what you have to share each week on Tuesday Greens!

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September 25, 2013 at 6:11 AM

Aren't the bacteria killed by the boiling water?
Do you add in more bacteria?

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September 25, 2013 at 9:10 PM

OK, so yes, the naturally present bacteria on the dandelions are killed when you make them into tea, which is unfortunate. But I do use a wild fermented soda starter, or a ginger bug. There is a link to the ginger bug instructions in the beginning of the article- you can use it to turn just about any sweet tea or juice into a natural soda!

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Nox
February 17, 2014 at 9:22 AM

has anyone tried using dandilion root as the starter?

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April 29, 2014 at 5:06 PM

Just wanted to share that I make tons of lacto - ferments (love them.) and I LOVE dandelions. I've never mixed the two but will now.

In response to alcohol question it's the second ferment/adding additional goodies li k e fruit (common with kombucha) that creates alcohol. With a first ferment the most you'll get is vinegar. I hope that helps you Sarah of Nature's Nuture.

Also...Seriously thank you for sharing this!! I'm really excited to get more dandilions. I think I'll plant some specific lay in my garden beds as the goats eat so many from the yard. Yes...I fight my goats for "weeds" ;)

~ Honey

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Dagmar
June 10, 2014 at 10:24 AM

Do you wash the flowers before making the soda?

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June 22, 2014 at 9:17 AM

No! I figure the boiling water sanitizes them, but all our flowers are from my relatively clean yard. I wouldn't use dandelions that are from a sketchy area. But I suppose you could give the flowers a rinse before cutting them, if they are dusty or something!

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March 27, 2016 at 8:19 AM

Thank you for this awesome process. As I am highly allergic to ginger, is there another all natural soda starter that can be made, and what from please?

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April 1, 2016 at 8:15 AM

Hi Rebecca. I have never tried it, but other hearty roots should work in the place of ginger. I have specifically read that dandelion root will work. Maybe chicory, turmeric, and burdock? Ginger gives such a nice flavor and I'm so sorry you can't enjoy it! The others will impart their own flavor, but it's really just the starter that would taste like it. When you make the actual soda you can flavor it however you want :) Good luck!

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May 8, 2016 at 4:26 PM

I realize this post is old, but I just went dandelion picking and have been having almost 100% luck getting all the yellow, with no green. I just pinch the base of the flower with a little twist between thumb and finger, and that detatches all the petals, then just gently pull them all out in one pinch and it leaves all the leaves behind. Just thought I would share, because its quick and easy!

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