When Life Gives You Dandelions–Make Wine!

A few weeks ago I went to visit my friend, Cristin, in Baltimore. It was a beautiful weekend in early April. Baltimore being only a few hours south of New York, I’m still always surprised by the weather difference. Magnolia and Cherry Blossoms were already in full bloom, with New York’s spring still a few weeks away. There was no shortage of activities in front of us–museums, Fells Point, antiquing. But being high off my first foraging experience just the weekend the before, we decided on what any sane, classy women in their early 30s would do. We spent the afternoon picking dandelions and the evening making wine.

The main ingredients--citrus, raisins and sugar (and dandelions of course)

The main ingredients–citrus, raisins and sugar (and dandelions of course)

Other than the dandelions we needed to collect, most of the ingredients were common household staples–oranges, lemons, sugar and raisins. You’ll also need brewer’s yeast and yeast nutrient something you probably wouldn’t have around your house, unless like Cristin, you just brewed some mead a few months back. However these ingredients are easily found at your local homebrew store.

Yeast and Yeast Nutrient available at your Neighborhood Homebrew Shop

Yeast and Yeast Nutrient available at your Neighborhood Homebrew Shop

I was very diligent in photographing each step. Only several steps and several hours in did I realize photos of the final product was not possible. Most wines take months to years to finish. Why would dandelion wine be any different? The initial steps took less than 24 hours, but the entire fermentation process still needed a few months. I left Baltimore with our jug of wine in Cristin’s hands, to let her finish the process, and reconvene in a year to taste our product.

Wash Dandelions THOROUGHLY! The Brooklyn picks were clean but the Baltimore batch came with a complementary community of miniature ants

Wash Dandelions THOROUGHLY!

Back in Brooklyn, during my day of violet foraging, a came across a patch of dandelions too large to ignore (I swear, I can never look at them the same again). Coincidentally, Leda Meredith also posted her dandelion wine recipe on Facebook around the same time. Why couldn’t I make my own batch? Cristin and I agreed it was absolutely necessary to make both wines and compare upon completion. While the wine won’t be ready for another year, I figured I’d share both recipes before the last of the dandelions morph into fuzzy seed buds, in case you were interested. Perhaps we can all get together for a dandelion tasting party next spring to choose the favorite!

Wine cooking away--beautiful isn't it?

Wine cooking away–beautiful isn’t it?

A Few Tips I learned during the early stages:

  • Choose your dandelions from patches further into the park or field, where pets are less likely to have visited them.
  • Wear gloves when harvesting. Dandelions have sticky, sappy stems and a high level of pollen, resulting in yellow fingers if not protected.
  • Wash your flowers thoroughly! While the Brooklyn flowers seemed clean to start, the Baltimore buds came with a complementary community of miniature ants. We think we got them all out of Cristin’s kitchen…

And now for the recipes:

Jack Keller’s Dandelion Wine

Leda Meredith’s Dandelion Wine

Fermenting away!

Dandelion Wine fermenting away!

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11 comments on “When Life Gives You Dandelions–Make Wine!

  1. I have never heard of dandelion wine, is it more like a beer or cider or is the yeast used to quicken the process. I hope these are not stupid questions I find this intriguing. My Grandfather made his own wine from grapes so I come of a long line of DIY wine makers.

    • Not stupid questions at all! And being my first time doing this, I’m not sure how well I can answer them. To me, the process seemed more like beer making but to my husband, a homebrewer, he thought it was more wine like. As for what it will taste like? No idea. During the early stages it was very citrusy from the lemon and orange additions. When I racked it into the jug it smelled very similar to your cheap Italian bathtub wine (at least from what I’ve sampled). I imagine it will be pretty sweet. It could be a complete failure! But you can’t blame me for having fun trying 🙂

  2. If you tell me how your wine turns out I’ll tell you how my mead is when it’s done. 🙂

    • Haha deal! I tried my friend’s mead, not yet done. It sort of tasted like mead but also sort of awful. Hopefully it progresses a bit more 🙂

      • I tried mine last night. It has been on for about 10 days so it still has a lot of honey sweetness. It was pretty good. I only used the yellow part of the flowers and I chose Vintners SN9 yeast. By the way it is bubbling I hope to have it in bottles in maybe a couple of months.

  3. […] When Life Gives You Dandelions – Make Wine! (bklynlocavore.com) […]

  4. Fig & Quince says:

    I had of course heard of foraging etc but your blog and adventures with foraging is really making me have an itch to do it too. Super cool post!

    • It’s like any other food related project–it becomes addictive. I can only ID a few plants right now, but it kills me to walk past a patch without picking any!

  5. […] When Life Gives You Dandelions – Make Wine! (bklynlocavore.com) […]

  6. […] When Life Gives You Dandelions – Make Wine! (bklynlocavore.com) […]

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