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Monday, April 16, 2012

Dandelion Wine & Living in the Moment

I spotted the first dandelions of the season over the weekend.  I love these guys and I'm always happy to see them. They are quite a gift from nature as I discovered last year . I'm really struck by how cyclical nature is. It was almost exactly a year ago that I was noticing the dandelions and here they are again- right on time.  That kind of preciseness gives me a good chance for "do overs" I think.

See, in last year's post I wrote about how you could eat dandelions in salads and use them for medicinal purposes. But I didn't put my dandelions in a salad, I decided to make wine.

I picked 8 cups of dandelions tops- not the greens, just the tops. I dissolved a package of yeast in 1/4 cup of warm water and set it aside. I washed my dandelion tops and put them in a big stock pot with 16 cups of water. I added 1 cup orange juice, 3 tablespoons lemon juice, 3 tablespoons lime juice, 8 cloves, 1/2 tsp. powered ginger, 3 tbs. orange peel, 1 tbs. lemon peel and 6 cups (gulp!) of sugar.

I brought the whole thing to a boil and let it boil for an hour. I stirred it and felt very "witch like" with my brew. It smelled heavenly! After an hour, I strained the mixture through cheesecloth and let it cool.  When it was warm, but not hot, I stirred in the yeast.  I put the lid on top and let it stand overnight.  It was quite a bubbly concoction the next morning when I poured it into bottles.  Rather than cork it, it's best to just cover the bottles with cheesecloth and store it in a darkened place (sounds magical and witchy again!- I put it in the cold room) for three weeks.

This stuff smelled so good everyone wanted to drink it right away. It really did taste good. But I was pretty determined to make wine so I bottled it and following the instructions. At the 3 week mark I checked it out. It was bubbling like crazy. It still smelled really good. I strained it again, put it in new bottles and  put a twist top on it loosely. I tasted some of it. It was awesome! It was bubbly like a beer and had about the same alcohol content at 5 or 6%. I considered just drinking it then.

But I hoarded my dandelion wine.  I thought if it was at 5% alcohol now, in a few months time I might have 20 proof or so!  I also imagined bringing those 4 bottles out at Christmas time when there were no more dandelions around and enjoying the medicinal effects and the taste of spring.  I kept thinking about my wine, but it never quite felt like the right time to bring it out. I was "saving" it for something.

Round about Christmas I broke out the first bottle of dandelion wine.  It was horrible!  Undrinkable. Vinegar like, no alcohol content, and nowhere near the experience I had imagined.  So disappointing!  Where had my wonderful smelling, sweet tasting, brew gone??? Hmmm...

So the moral of this story in my opinion is: live in the moment.  I think when nature presents you with something like dandelions, you're meant to enjoy them right away. I think nature knows best, and I guess that means dandelion wine should be enjoyed when there are still dandelions around.  It isn't a Christmas wine, it's a deck wine, to be savored in the sunshine. Maybe it should be called dandelion beer.

It seems I have this pioneer gene in me that believes I should be preserving things to use later. It's an old emergency plan to avoid starvation I think. But really, cucumbers taste much better than pickles, strawberries fresh in the bowl are so much better than strawberry jam, grapes are way better than grape jelly, and peaches are heavenly with the juice dripping from your hands onto your bare toes in the grass, and just don't compare when canned ( know because I tried that too).  And if you've ever canned anything in the heat of the summer when the fruit was in season, you'll quickly realize how unnatural that is.

I think nature is trying to tell us to stop worrying and planning for the future and just live and be in the moment. If you've got more peaches than you can eat, share them with your friends rather than squeeze them into a jar. Nature will continue to provide for us through all the seasons.  Less face it, in my part of the world I really don't run the risk of starvation by Christmas if I haven't made jams and preserves.

Dandelions resonate with the third chakra.  They connect us to our center of power and self-control. Perhaps the message is to let go of trying to control everything.  Most of all, to stop trying to control nature and just enjoy what's in front of you right now. The third chakra, when balanced, allows us to make decisions that are in tune with our emotions, not just our intellect. Hmmm...

So this year, if I get a bumper crop of dandelions, I going to make dandelion beer. I'm going to drink it when it smells good, is bubbly, and refreshing. In between sips, I'll set my glass down in the warm grass right beside a dandelion patch. I might call some friends and share all the bottles at once. I think I'll have a party. I'm going to ignore that little voice of intellect that tells me I should hoard, preparing for a hard winter, preserve for tough times ahead. I will connect with my third chakra, safe in the knowing that I have the personal power to thrive, not just survive.


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