Most people consider dandelions to be weeds. But today, I hope to change your mind about them. As far as I’m concerned, dandelions are actually one of Nature’s greatest gifts.
Aside from their amazing health benefits, dandelion plants are beautiful to behold. They have tender, intricate leaves with brilliant yellow flowers — full of the healthy carotenoid lutein. (And I still enjoy watching the delightful “puffs” blowing on the wind when they finally go to seed.)
You can also use dandelions in your cooking. They make a delicious addition to your salad, or a salad all on their own, with olive oil, vinegar, and/or lemon juice. Add a little salt and pepper and you have a delicious and healthy side dish or light meal.
You can even make a refreshing spring wine with fresh dandelions from the garden…
I first heard about Dandelion Wine, the semi-autobiographical novel by Ray Bradbury, as a child. The book is set in the summer of 1928 in the fictional town of Green Town, Illinois — a stand-in for Bradbury’s childhood home of Waukegan, Illinois.
Bradbury was a visionary science fiction writer who was more concerned about the social implications of new technology than the actual workings of it. (He never learned to drive a car!)
Bradbury developed the Dandelion Wine novel from a culinary article he wrote on the topic, which appeared in the June 1953 issue of Gourmet Magazine.
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Some experts believe dandelion wine originated with Celtic culture, which dominated most of continental Europe and the British Isles for millennia. It was not considered proper for women to imbibe alcohol in the 18th and 19th centuries. But they could and did drink dandelion wine, as it was considered therapeutic for the GI system and kidneys.
Today’s science confirms dandelion wine benefits digestion, as well as liver and kidney function. (The word dandelion is from the French, dent-de-lion, or “lions’ teeth,” for the standard serrated shape of the leaves. But the slang term, pis-en-lit, or wet-the-bed, provides the clue to its kidney effects.)
This recipe of dandelion wine calls for just the petals. So settle in for a long session of second picking, or “she loves me, she loves me not.”
To make dandelion wine you need:
- 3 quarts of dandelion petals
- 1 gallon water
- 2 oranges, with peel (organic)
- 1 lemon with peel (organic)
- 3 pounds of sugar (don’t worry — the sugar will be fermented to alcohol)
- 1 package of wine yeast
- 1 pound of raisins (organic)
- Collect the dandelion blossoms when fully opened, on a sunny day.
- Remove any green parts as they contain phytochemicals that would inhibit the activity of the yeast.
- Boil the water and pour over petals in a large crock.
- Cover and let steep for three days.
- Zest the peel of one orange and ½ the lemon. Peel the rest and slice into rounds.
- Add the citrus zest to the flower-water and bring to a boil.
- Remove from heat and strain out solids.
- Add the sugar while warm, stirring until dissolved; and allow the mixture to cool.
- Add the orange and lemon slices, yeast and raisins to the liquid.
- Put everything back into the crock with a loose lid (or a top with a valve from home-brewing) to allow gases to escape during fermentation. You can cover with a clean muslin cloth tied down with a big rubber band.
- When the liquid stops bubbling (after two to seven days), strain it through several layers of cheesecloth, or a burlap towel.
- Transfer to clean, sterilized bottles.
- Place a deflated balloon over the lip of each bottle top to check for any further gas production from ongoing fermentation.
- When the balloon stays deflated for 24 hours, you are done. Cork the bottles and store in a cool, dry place for at least six months to age.
So — this spring, when your lawn and garden start to come back to life, please don’t dump a bunch of chemical pesticides to try to kill the “weeds.” Make wine instead.
Or if you’re not ready to start your own brewery, you can get all the healthy benefits of dandelion in supplement form. I recommend finding a high-quality formula that combines dandelion together with aspal in convenient supplement form for health and longevity.