Tuesday, April 17, 2012

More Adventures in Backyard Foraging

So my next great adventure involves the lowly dandelion.  Well, lowly is a relative term.  I have plenty of neighbors who probably see my lawn as nothing more than an infestation waiting to happen.  Come mid-morning, our yard erupts into a field of yellow and soon, if we don't mow it first, a field of pestilent seed heads.   But every morning I go out there and collect whole dandelion plants and chickweed for my chicks who gobble it up like there's nothing better.  They might be on to something.

I recently became a little more fond of the flower myself.  No, I haven't put it in my salads yet, but I've missed that boat this year anyhow.  It's no secret that dandelions are tasty but I'm speaking today of dandelion wine.  I've always wanted to try it, let alone make it.  Now that I've got a few batches of grape wine under my belt and a peach wine too, it's time to expand my repertoire.   Armed with a paper bag on an absurdly windy day, I picked enough dandelions to fill nine cups of nothing but the "petals".  But more on that in a bit.  The flower heads are actually very beautiful if you give them a second look.  They are nothing short of miniature zinnias.  I once heard a guy say that they are only weeds to those who like vast expanses of green nothingness.  But really, to those who appreciate them, they are very beautiful flowers that grow REALLY well.  And that's the truth.  I've even heard it said that they are indeed native to the U.S. due to accounts of the Native Americans using them in their own concoctions before Columbus even landed.  Here I've grown up being told they were a non-native weed.  Who knows?

So I took this large crop of dandelions into the house and began separating the green from the yellow.  I've heard it said that each petal is actually a flower in itself, having all the necessary parts to be deemed a whole flower.  I'll believe it, botany class being so far behind me.  So I really separated all the flowers from the flower head, many times over.  I was rudely interrupted halfway through the process by a Kirby salesman who practically forced his way into my house and thought I was rude for kicking him out - but that's another story altogether.  It took several hours to amass nine cups of "petals" at any rate and they are patiently waiting in the fridge for the rest of the ingredients to come together.  Our neighborhood wine-making supply shop is on the other side of town and I need yeast.  All of the other ingredients are on hand, including the tannin and nutrient.  I've also heard (lots of variations and speculations with dandelion wine) that rhubarb can be used in the recipe.  This will require a bit more research.  If I can't find the information, I'll probably used citrus and white grape juice.

This is an ongoing project that will take a year to complete so consider this a first installment.  So far my fingers and nails are nearly permanently stained and my blue jeans bear bright yellow blotches from kneeling in the field.  It's all good.

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