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.