The Slowcook at Spydog Farm The Slowcook at Spydog Farm

What to Do with Dandelions

April 15th, 2008 · 10 Comments · Posted in Uncategorized

“Daddy! Look at all the dandelions!”

That was daughter’s reaction this weekend to the incredible bloom taking place in our front “yard.” It’s been an unusually cool spring so far, ideal for all sorts of cool weather plants, be they in the garden beds or in the spaces in between.

Dandelion, chickweed, wild strawberry and many whose name I do not know: They are thriving and on the move. Some, such as the chickweed, are just noxious, slinking into the lettuce, twining around the cilantro. But chickweed is edible. Try running it through a food processor and turning it into pesto sauce.

Dandelion greens of course are also famously edible, either cooked or in a salad. But somehow the tender greens eluded me and now the plants were all in bloom. They make a terrific display. Have you ever looked closely at a dandelion flower? It is a wondrous piece of construction, the color uniformly intense and cheerful. Most homeowners would be running for the herbicide. But with so many dandelions I couldn’t help wondering, Isn’t there some way we can eat them?

Having recently written a piece on edible weeds for Martha Stewart, I was able to answer my own question: perhaps not eat the flowers, but we could certainly drink them in the form of dandelion wine. Daughter leaped at the idea and ran to the kitchen to fetch a bowl. A short time later the bowl was nearly full and daughter’s hands were stained a bright yellow from picking dandelion blossoms.

I confess, this is a first for me. I have never made dandelion wine before. I just went to the internet and pulled the first recipe I found. Some of you old hands out there might have some pointers. Do you have a favorite method? See what you think of this:

1 package dried yeast
1/4 cup warm water
2 quarts dandelion blossoms
4 quarts water
1 cup orange juice
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
8 whole cloves
1/2 teaspoon powdered ginger
3 tablespoons coarsely chopped orange peel
1 tablespoon coarsely chopped lemon peel
6 cups sugar

Dissolve the yeast in the warm water and set aside.

Wash the dandelion blossoms and drain in a colander. Put the water in a heavy pot and add the dandelion blossoms, orange, lemon and lime juices, then add the cloves, ginger, orange and lemon peel and sugar. Bring to a boil and cook for one hour. Strain through filter paper (such as coffee filter) or a very fine sieve and cool. While still warm but not hot (around 100 degrees) stir in the yeast.

Let the brew stand overnight, then pour into bottles. Place the bottles, uncorked, in a cool, dark place for three weeks. Then cork the bottles and store in a cool place. Makes about 4 quarts.

We started our wine making yesterday. I was anxious to try it this morning. Frankly, I had thought the recipe a strange mix of ingredients. But the flavor is surprisingly good–a mulled citrus with a definite tang. There’s no discernible kick to this wine yet. I’m guessing that comes later, after the yeast have had plenty of time to feast on the sugar.

I ladled the brew into quart-sized canning jars and secured paper towel over the tops to keep out the fruit flies. The jars have a nicely packaged look, the wine a deep yellow color like fresh butter. I’m stashing the jars in our back pantry. I’ll be back in a few weeks with an update.

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  • The Baklava Queen

    Oh, Ed, you’re a step ahead of me, as usual! I’m hoping to harvest blossoms for wine this coming weekend at the farm. Your recipe is about like the one I use, save for the cloves and ginger (which should add a nice hint of spice). In the past, my dandelion wine has turned out lightly fizzy, like a sweet citrusy champagne in its early stages… very pleasing.

    I did forage greens this past weekend, as well as chickweed (thanks to your excellent example)… made the chickweed pesto last night so will blog about that soon. Delicious!

  • Pattie

    Ed: Awesome! We have tons of dandelions, too, but they are on a piece of grass that gets pesticide residues from neighbor yards so we can’t consume them. I made the mistake of paying my daughters a nickel a dandelion and I was wiped out of 20 bucks before I could make lunch. I changed it to a penny a dandelion. Five bucks disappeared. Now, we’re at a penny for three dandelions and the dollars are finally flowing a little slower. We’re calling this the Dollars for Dandelions program and 10% of profits go into the charity jar.

  • Jen (Modern Beet)

    wow! I love eating dandelion greens, but had always thought dandelion wine something that only existed in literature and folk songs :) please do post how it turns out once it’s finished.

  • Mosby

    I’ve made it a few times. It was very sweet and tasty. Very good for the kidneys, apparently Somewhere I have a recipe for dandelion beer. It’s a fall recipe, really, as it calls for the roots which have spent a long, lovely summer saving up all that solar energy. If I can find it, I’ll send it.

  • Ed Bruske

    Jennifer, I’m impressed–chickweed pesto. Not everyone is so daring.
    I’m very anxious to taste the finished dandelion wine. Anything close to champagne would be fine with me.

    Pattie, sounds like you have quite a crop of dandelions. I’ll bet it looks spectacular, even if you are a few dollars poorer.

    Jen, dandelion wine really exists. I will keep you posted.

    Mosby, my neighbors will think I’m nuts, digging around the garden for dandelion roots. But I’m game.

  • The Baklava Queen

    Mosby, I’d be interested in seeing the dandelion beer recipe, too. I’m hoping to harvest plenty of roots this fall for dandelion coffee… sounds like it would be less bitter and harsh than regular coffee, which I have finally largely cut out of my diet. (And it’s local… bonus!)

  • Walter Jeffries

    Dandelion dreams… They and skunk cabbage are my first signs of spring. I have yet to see either but today I spotted bare ground in the south field where the spring eases out of the earth. Soon…

  • Eric

    This is great! I’ll have to give it a try.
    I just posted about dandelions yesterday, and then I saw this post today. I guess it’s still a good idea for a post even if I wasn’t original.

  • Ed Bruske

    Walter, it’s starting to feel like summer around here. But then a cold front moves in and it rains and rains….

    Eric, everyone should have at least one post about dandelions this time of year.

  • Toñi

    Wonderful post. I was looking for “dandelion wine” and I´ve found your recipe.

    I´m going to try it. But now it´s winter in Albacete, Spain, the town in which I´m writing you.

    But I think it would be great this next spring.