Spring comes to Gustavus when the dull colors of winter give way to the greens of the forest under-story and grassy lawns. Then, we know the season has arrived for sure when the first dandelions appear. Their bright-yellow flowers, like little suns reflecting back from the ground, lift our hearts and bring smiles to our faces.
As spring continues, the dandelions become more and more prolific, until they seem to be trying to take over the world. Never fear — I have a solution here for you. When you get tired of looking at that field of yellow, you can make a very fine wine from the blossoms. You’ll need 15 quarts of them for your first batch, so start picking!
Soon after you start your wine the remaining blossoms in your yard will turn into puffballs full of seeds, which the wind then spreads to the four corners of your world, ready to grow again next spring.
Dandelion does have its uses. The roots go deep into the soil and pull up nitrogen, which is then available for other plants as well. Many herbalists know dandelion as the “liver plant,” as it helps cause the formation of bile and removes excess water from the body. It can also remove poisons from the system, provide a tonic or stimulant, or supply a mild laxative. Try making the following tea to tap into dandelion’s useful properties. Add two tablespoons fresh roots and leaves to one cup water. Boil, then steep 15 minutes. Take one cup, morning and night.
Now, for that wine! For a tasty vintage, try this recipe:
3 gallons cold water
15 pounds sugar
1 yeast cake or about 1/2 ounce yeastRinds and juice of 12 oranges
Rinds and juice of 6 lemons
2 1/2 pounds raisins
Place blossoms in cold water and simmer for 3 hours, then strain the liquid and mix it with sugar. Bring to a boil and strain through cheesecloth. When lukewarm, add yeast. Let mixture stand for 2 or 3 days, skimming it each day. Simmer thinly peeled rinds of oranges and lemons in a little water for 2 hours. Add cooked rinds and orange and lemon juice to yeast mixture. There should be 5 gallons. Pour into a 5-gallon cask or crockery container, and add raisins. Leave cask open for 1 day, then seal it tightly and let it stand for 6 months before bottling. The wine improves with aging.