A few weeks ago, our neighborhood was covered with freshly blooming dandelions. The abundance got my wheels turning: There must be some way to use all of these ‘weeds’? Fortunately, I have easy access to a community garden that was filled with un-sprayed, organically growing dandelions! I decided to start harvesting these healthful plants with the end goal of a making a big batch of dandelion wine. If you are wondering how to brew dandelion wine or are just curious about the process, keep reading.
But first, let’s talk a bit about dandelions. The dandelion plant is special in that all of its parts are edible. From the leaves, to the flower petals, to the roots, each part of a dandelion can be prepared in a tasty way to nourish your body. What’s more, dandelions are full of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Did you know that a 1/2 cup of dandelion greens has more calcium than a glass of milk? It’s a shame that this nutrient-dense plant has been relegated to ‘weed’ status and I encourage you challenge this notion by experimenting with incorporating dandelions into your diet.
If you’re feeling inspired (or just curious) try starting out with dandelion leaves. You can find them at your local health food store, or you can harvest them yourself from an un-sprayed lawn or field. The leaves, which can be quite bitter, are delicious when sauteed with other greens (or cooked alone) in olive oil or butter. Check out this article for the details on How to Cook and Eat Dandelion Greens.
If you are curious to try dandelion roots you are in luck! Dandelion roots can be toasted, ground and then steeped in hot water for a liver cleansing roasty alternative to coffee. Of course, don’t forget about the dandelion petals. I’ve heard of folks pickling the pre-bloomed buds, frying the flower heads, or using the petals to brew dandelion wine, as I am trying here. For some really unique and creative ideas on how to prepare dandelions, check out this comprehensive article!
Regardless of how you choose to eat your dandelions, make sure to get them from a clean source (i.e. don’t harvest dandelions from a lawn that’s been sprayed with pesticides).
Brewing Dandelion Wine
In the below recipe, I harvested dandelion petals to brew a sweet and flavorful liquid that was to become the base of my dandelion wine. Since I had to harvest and process at least a gallon of dandelion petals, I recruited a generous friend to help me. If you can’t find any eager helpers, you can always try bribing people with the promise of homemade booze (I’m kidding…kind of).
Processing the dandelion flowers requires removing as much of the green bits from the bud to avoid their imparting bitterness to the wine. This can be quite tedious (hence the friend bribing). Once this step is complete, I added citrus peels and juices for acidity, raisins for their tannins, and sugar as food for the yeast (to be added later)! To this whole mixture I added nearly a gallon of boiling water and allowed this ‘tea’ to steep, adding the champagne yeast once it had cooled thoroughly.
This mixture steeped for 4 days, after which, I strained it into a one gallon glass jug fitted with a size 6.5 rubber stopper and an airlock. I labeled it with the date (see labels below) and it is now brewing behind my couch, where it will stay more or less undisturbed (save for some siphoning, or racking: see recipe) for a year!
This has been my first attempt at brewing dandelion wine and while I’d love to tell you that it is perfectly delicious and balanced in its flavors, the final verdict is still out since this wine won’t be finished until this time next year. I did, however, taste the steeped petals and juices before I strained it into my gallon jug and was quite pleased with its sweet, citrusy flavor. Regardless of how it turns out, I’m quite certain it will be a step-up compared to the jet fuel I made in college with concentrated grape juice and bread yeast! Cheers!
This recipe has been adapted from Sandor Katz’ recipe for Flower Wine in his book Wild Fermentation: The Flavor, Nutrition, and Craft of Live-Culture Foods.
- 1 Gallon of dandelion petals plus a few extra handfuls for good luck
- 2 pounds organic sugar
- Juice & thinly peeled rind of 2 organic lemons
- Juice & thinly peeled rind of 2 organic oranges
- 1 pound of raisins
- Just under a gallon of water
- ⅕ packet of champagne yeast
- Remove the yellow petals of your dandelion heads from the green bits.
- Combine flower petals, raisins, sugar, and juice and peels of the lemons and oranges in a large stainless steel pot.
- Add just under a gallon of boiling water.
- Stir to combine, then cover and allow to steep until cooled to room temperature. This will take several hours.
- When cool, add champagne yeast, following instructions on packet.
- Allow the mixture to sit, covered, for 3 to 4 days, stirring 2-3 times daily to assist in blending the flavors.
- Strain the liquid through cheesecloth or other fine mesh (I used a nut milk bag) into a one gallon glass jug fitted with a stopper & airlock.
- After 3 months, siphon into a clean jug and allow it to ferment for 6 months longer before bottling.
- Age the wine in bottles for at least 3 months longer to allow the flavor to mellow. Alternatively, siphon the wine once more at the 9 month mark and allow the whole gallon to mellow in the jug until you hit the 1 year mark!