Sunday, May 2, 2010

Dandelion Wine

So I have been taking a botanical drawing class, something I have wanted to do for a long time. But mostly this has consisted of doing so-so portraits of poppies and geraniums. Things started looking up when we did beets and radishes--I thought, well, I can do this. I know food. The beets turned out ok.
Well, finally, the last day, we did the most perfect plant imaginable: dandelions. Perfect because I have been wiggling my toes in dandelions. Frying up the blossoms as fritters. Drinking root tea. Eating the greens. Dandelions are food, medicine, muse. Euell Gibbons stalked wild asparagus. Me, I crave and hunt dandelions. We are in the midst of a dandelion honeymoon. Why just this week we bottled our first batch ever of dandelion wine.

Now, when Rick and I married, he went out and bought me a copy of Dandelion Wine, Ray Bradbury's lyrical and evocative tale of a Midwestern childhood. Told me I had to read it (that and Death Without Weeping, but that is a whole 'nother story!) But I only understood why the other day, when I had a sip of that sweet nectar . . .which is the smell of sunshine on an absolutely still August day, flies buzzing around my head, sweat making my shirt stick to my back. It's the juice of just-picked tomatoes dripping down my chin. It's hanging wet sheets on the line with my grandmother, standing barefoot in the cool grass.

For this first attempt at dandelion wine, I used Susun Weed's recipe from Healing Wise, after leafing through a stack of books that had no recipes. I guess it's an old fashioned, out-of-favor sort of thing. Now most people think it's cool to be hatin' on dandelions. Too bad, because they are so, um, good for us (d0 you really care?). They taste good. Honest! They are pure sunshine! Ok, they're fun. We can be crazy-wise and use something others revile--enjoying a secret they couldn't even imagine all the while.

I am sure I won't convince many in a short post of the passion I feel about this. All I can do is give you some advice:

You can read the book, or you can make some wine. Your choice. Trust me: either way, you'll be transported.

And, by the way, the picture turned out pretty good too.


Anonymous said...

YES! Dandelions! I love them and did a cross-stitch picture of dandelions 30 years ago, from a Danish design. I have't framed it yet, but your blog on the wonders of dandelion may just inspire me to do so!
My suburban NJ yard is full of dandelions, and my neighbors haven't even complained! Well, I do get a visit from Code Enforcement once a summer complaining about my "weeds" (mostly herbs and native things which drift in and I leave them alone.) But once I give them a tour of the yard and tell them the names of the "weeds" they leave me alone. I mean, REALLY!
I am lucky that none of my neighbors are the lawn crazy people that mostly live in NJ. And many of the young Moms bring their kids around for a garden tour once in a while. Another neighbor teaches an art class, and they meet in my backyard in the summer to draw plants.
Your dandelion drawing is wonderful! I love it! I have always wanted to take a botanical drawing class, but I've never seen one in this area.
Best of luck and thanks from another Dandelion Lover,
(Chapter Leader, NJ)

Anonymous said...

Nice piece, Justine. I've never had the wine, but loved the book! If everyone could be convinced that taraxicum was not evil, we could put a dent in Monsanto's profits!

Miss ya! (Miami was not the same place with you gone when I returned!)


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