Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Dandelion Wine Recipe

I love making country wines with flowers, fruits and even roots. Each one is so straight forward and a delightfully complex ferment at the same time. What a wonderful way to get outside and in the kitchen for some dandy fun!

Brightness Herself

Last Monday, I headed out to the Sno-Valley Tilth farmer's potluck to share food with valley farmers and listen to a talk on native pollinators. Getting to know this valley in so many different aspects.

On the way, I happened upon a bountiful field full of the harbingers of spring and realized there was just enough time to pick a basketful of flowers and get to the potluck. 

Dandelions, the sun come to earth…have you noticed how they hide their faces when the sun goes behind a cloud or begins its descent into the western horizon? I delight in the way the fine rayed petals (each a separate flower in a community of many) shine the light right back up at that golden sky orb…

Oregon Grape flowers, delicious and tangy

My mom was a knitter, always kept her hands busy when she went to meetings. I fell in with the roots and barks and flowers and keep these hands busy moving plants along in their journeys through time and place.

It never ceases to amaze me that when a woman sits down with a basket of herbs and starts doing something with them, any other women in the near vicinity mozey over and wonder what she's doing! Before you know it everyone is plucking and visiting and having a good time. And so, the basket of flowers became a basket of petals in no time at all.

A basket full of sunshine
Of course, that's what I love about country wines, they're a social thing. Like eating and dancing!

Here's the recipe for one gallon of Dandelion Wine for all to enjoy…

Dandelion Wine Recipe April 2014
Pick a basketful of dandelion blossoms. About 1 gallon for a gallon of wine. 

Pick petals from the calyx…this is the second picking! This year the Oregon Grape was blooming, so 2 big handfuls of their flowers went in and the Lungwort was not to be left out so a handful of lungwort was added as well. Sometimes, cowslips are abloom when the wine is coming together and they go in too!

Be daring, mix it up a little, see what happens! 

I like making one gallon of 3-4 different wines each summer. This quantity is easy to put down in an afternoon. Uncorking sunny flowers and fruits, vitamins and minerals in dark and rainy times sparks winter cheer.

Raw materials
  • Place petals into a stainless steel pan
  • Add 3/4 gallon boiling water  
  • Add 2 1/2 # sugar or honey, your choice
  • Stir to dissolve
  • Slice 1 organic orange and 1 organic grapefruit into thin slices toss them in the kettle
  • Stir and cover with a cotton dish towel
  • Cool down to blood heat
  • While the brew cools mix 1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon yeast into warm water with a double pinch of sugar or small spoon of honey to make a nucleus, this quickens the yeast so it hits the tea ready to work on the sugars sparking an eager ferment
  • Pitch the yeast into the tea mix and cover again with the cotton dish towel
Pitching the yeast!
  • Now, the primary fermentation takes place, let the kettle bubble and spark until it settles down into a quiet state
  • Boil 32 ounces water with 16 oz sugar, remove from heat and add 2 black teabags, let cool
  • Strain out all plant material and rebottle liquid into a 1 gallon glass jug (apple cider jug)
  • Add as much of the simple tea syrup as needed to bring liquid to the shoulder of the jug, don't fill too full, ferment will be active to start
  • Close top with a fermentation lock or a balloon and watch the secondary fermentation begin
  • Let the ferment go until it stops, make sure the wine is in a place that stays the temperature that will allow a yeasted dough to rise
  • Once fermentation has ceased the wine is ready to bottle
The wine can be bottled once the sediment has settled and cleared to your liking. I often leave mine until the first freeze of fall. Something mysterious happens about this time which helps clear the wine a wee bit more.

A delicious finish to enjoy and share with friends!


This is just the tip of the iceberg…want more great ways to include Dandelion's wealth of health giving properties into your life? Her leaves and roots are nature's storehouse of nutrients and how she works in your garden will blow you away!

Be sure to check out this summer's classes, Rambles Around the Salish Sea and events on the 2016 Schedule...

Monday, April 14, 2014

Nature Contained?

Well, of course, nature is far too expansive to contain and, then, with a modern physics perspective, reminiscent of grandmother wisdom, one container holds many universes! Much time spent pondering these thoughts!

Womb Garden 2004

In the mean time, we garden. Actively engaged in growing from the heart, at RavenCroft a beautiful garden called by many names Womb Garden, Spiral Garden, Herb Garden continues to evoke life in her many forms. She is the heart of RavenCroft Garden and she is undergoing a radical metamorphosis this summer.

Womb Garden transforming

Working as nature's hands and feet, I follow her direction. The sun has pulled enough moisture from earth to begin the last tilling of the Womb Garden. When RavenCroft began 22 years ago this site was the recipient of 20 yards of manure from the dairy down the road. She has been a spiral garden, a teaching herb garden with over 240 different types of plants called herbs by some and she has lived her own quiet, beautiful way for the last several years not being required to "be" or "do" anything other than enjoy a sweet spot on earth filled with dance and song and the beauty of emergence…

Womb Garden on her way to a Labyrinth 2014

This a wee tangent, "a wild and wondrous journey through time and space and back again"…May you find something in this recipe to nourish your life and garden.

imagination, creation, wonder, may we enjoy the tangents

Since the soil was dry enough for the last tilling, a cascade of events began. Plants were moving to hedges and edges, where they will continue their "work" in free form style. Then, the collection of pots near the east dooryard started rattling and calling they wanted to be part of the "new" wave of activity…Okay, let's start here with pot renewal.

Motherwort to the South Hedge

empty space

Contained soil was emptied into a wheel barrow and mixed well with aged manure, decaying leaves, lime, worm castings and a handful of organic fertilizer. Then, of a sudden, a calling from behind the barn was heard and it turned out a small forgotten pile of firewood wanted to join the contained party.

Recomposition + dinner

Slow burning sponges

Heaven only knows it was well along in the cool fire of decomposing, or perhaps re-composing, if you will, and the slow burn of this material transforms to a perfect sponge in the bottom of each pot. And, there was a luscious stand of nettle wrapped around the pile helping it along in its transformation to earth. Voila, dinner!

 Containers revived and ready for plants

Violas, St. Joanswort, marshmallow, hairy bitter cress, lemon balm, feverfew, elecampane, roadside daisy, motherwort all clambering and rejoicing as they moved from the Womb Garden to the east dooryard garden. Delighted to be once again of service, greeting the sun each morning and reassuring the world that she is remembered.

Violas and lemon balm
Motherwort, St. Joanswort, violas, marshmallow

May your garden be fruitful and filled with life! 

Monday, April 7, 2014

Homemade Potting Soil

Wow, the first warm/hot day of spring arrived, the temperature hit 73 degrees in the garden today. And, the flurry of spring garden activity surely satisfies a longing that lingers through the cold, dark days of winter.

Getting pots ready for summer plantings means preparing potting soil. Here's a recipe I mixed up this morning and have been filling pots and planting all day while humming a sweet song to all our women ancestors who cared and tended earth for soooooo long before we got here.

2 - 5 gallon buckets peat moss
1 - 5 gallon bucket aged goat manure, any kind will work
1 - 4 gallon bucket worm castings
1 - 4 gallon bucket maple leaves (thoroughly scratched by chickens all winter)
2 - 1 gallon buckets perlite
2 cups lime
2 cups kelp
1 cup bone meal

Mix all ingredients together well. Fill pots and plant. Enjoy!

Using as many garden offerings as possible, reducing the import loop and finding new ways to use everything!

  • Do you have a favorite homemade potting mix? 
  • How have you moved toward local ingredients? 
  • Any favorites?

Here are some pictures of a wine barrel being prepared for dwarf grey sugar peas. A delicious snap pea with edible purple flowers. The central  upright stick is an elder cutting which looks like she just might grow!

Sun dried sheets, too! What a glorious day…I hope yours was fine and as much outside as possible.