Sunday, May 1, 2011

April Showers Brought....Dandelions!

Happy May Day to you all!

The Captain and I had a rare day to ourselves, and it was the warmest and sunniest day this spring, so after breakfast we made plans to harvest our favorite weeds on a friend's property. We had planned to gather dandelions and nettles, to make beer, wine and put greens in our freezer, but the dandelions were so outrageously gorgeous, that we concentrated on them. I did collect a bag full of chickweed when I came across some, but otherwise we restrained ourselves--a good thing, because it took a couple of hours to process what we harvested and I am not quite done yet.

Our friends have several acres in a slightly more rural area, close by, but outside of the city limits. They have a horse and chickens, and every year they put in a lovely garden. We help--by weeding! We get food and they happily see the "pests" removed. A great deal for all concerned.

Their little girls helped me gather the blossoms, while The Captain dug the plants with roots still attached. We filled a bag with maybe 12 quarts of flowers. And my large gathering basket (3 ft high, with backpack straps) was filled to the top with the plants.

At home, we set up a cleaning station on the finger pier (where we have a work table), pulled the unopened blossoms off the plants, cut off the roots, and washed the mud off of everything.

The roots will be tinctured as soon as I get some vodka. I may end up with years' supply of dandelion root tincture. Yes, the fall is a better time to gather roots, but for me the best time is when I will actually do it. Today was the perfect day.

The buds are supposed to be good eating, so they went into the fridge. I think there may be a whole quart of them!

I started a couple of pots boiling, one for the beer (following a recipe in Susun Weed's Healing Wise) and one for blanching the greens. After cooling the greens in a bowl of cold water, then draining, I packaged them for freezing. Wild greens for the dark days of winter! I keep meaning to do this with nettles. Maybe next weekend...

Here I am sorting blossoms for dandelion flower cordial. The blossoms are macerated for a couple of weeks in alcohol--Susun Weed calls for vodka, but I am using some of our apple wine that came out very strong, 18% alcohol, because we used champagne yeast. The mixture is sweetened (I use honey) and becomes a delicious--and medicinal-- aperitif. It's a digestive, relieves pain, and can even help depression! A good thing to have on hand...

One of the more wonderful sensations today was sticking my hands into the bag of flowers, well over an hour after they were picked, and feeling the heat of the sun in the bag! It was startling and a sweet reminder of working in the bright sun and cool air.

By tradition, dandelion wine is made with blossoms in the spring and rests in its bottles until Winter Solstice. Last year we made only a handful of bottles (we ended up with five after a minor explosion cost us two...this year we will wait longer to bottle!) and when we opened the first one on the longest night of the year, it was like having a taste of liquid sunshine. We can thank those April showers I guess!

What do you do to celebrate Spring? Do you put food by?

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