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9 Tips- for making a Kick Ass Wildflower Wine

Now is the season, the possibilities of this years bounty are starting to bubble up in our minds. Wild wines, Jams, Jellies, confections and preserves, fritters and frittatas. Wild Mushrooms and May-apples. SPRING is here! Symbol of potential and new beginnings, new endeavors. so let’s get started.

Experience has shown me a good recipe is only part of the work, and often not as important to the result as HOW we go about making our wildcrafted delicacies. Since Dandelion Wine is one of the first Wild wines we can make, and in many North American areas, there is still time to make it, I will use Dandelion Wine as our example. These TIPS can be applied to all your planned productions from Mother Natures Bounty each season and year.

Dandelion Wine is a Spring tradition internationally. More than just a beverage. It can capture the essence of the season, and since it should sit for a few months to mature, you shouldn’t really drink it till Winter. Yule or Christmas or Chanukah time, capturing a taste and memory of springs light and warmth to savour during the dreary cold dark and dead of winter.

A pest and a blessing. Love them or hate them, either way we simply have to live with them. As persistent and adaptable as the proverbial cockroach, they are going nowhere, and we will never be rid of them, so might as well embrace them in all their bitter, medicinal, sweet and sunny glory.

dandelion
dandelion (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There are hundreds of recipes for Home made Dandelion Wine. I can’t tell you which is the best. I am sure every year there are more being developed as more people explore making it, and with the speed and proficiency of internet communication there are probably more wonderful recipes being posted as I write this. Whatever recipe you use, these tips are guaranteed to take it to a whole new level!!

– Not all Dandelions are equal .When it comes to making Dandelion Wine. You can’t just chop down any Dandelion flower at any time of the year in any place willy nilly so to speak and expect to make a superb wine. One dandelion is not the same as all other dandelions! First of all, if we are going to use them for our dandelion wine, we need to wait for them. That’s right.

–If you want Wild Mushrooms, you hunt them.

–If you want Dandelions for wine, you wait for them. Seriously.

1- Wait patiently , keep your eye open for where and when they will rise, you know where they will appear. Because you have noticed them,(consciously or not), year after year while your subconscious toyed with the idea of making something with that abundance that seems to be wasted. You are a creative spirit. Have all your tools, materials and vessels ready and sterilized, and a place ,(kitchen?), to do your magic planned. Be prepared!

2 – What is it that you are waiting for? You are waiting for that first county-wide Yellow Shout of Spring Joy from the earth, and that big outward push of those Dandy Lions from the sweet loins of mother nature en mass. That is the sweet spot!. There is usually only one per year. And it is worth waiting for! It could last two weeks, or it could only last a few days before a run of cold cloudy rainy weather puts a damper on it. There will be no more of a glorious or perfect a time to harvest Dandelion flowers for wine than this. Period. Sure, there will be more Dandelion flowers all summer long, and yes you could make dandelion wine at some later point in the season. But y’know what? It simply won’t be the same, and you will never know it unless you try this out.

English: Dead Football Ground with Dandelions,...
English: Dead Football Ground with Dandelions, Barnsley, Shropshire The building is the former changing rooms (home team this end, please!). A set of goal posts still leans against one wall. Dandelion wine makers, please take note. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So,,.Do enjoy Spring, relax and breath it in, take a few days to let that warm spring glow take the winter chill out of your bones, but DON’T miss that first yellow window! Seriously, when I do miss that first virgin big yellow swath of dandelioness everywhere, I will most often just wait till the next spring and say, “oh well, it wasn’t meant to be”. That’s how important it is. Having a good recipe is only one part of making the best Dandelion wine.

English: Dandelion clocks near Long Itchington...
TOO LATE!!!
English: Dandelion clocks near Long . (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

3 – If you can, try to harvest on a SUNDAY. Start as close after dawn as you can. Astrologically this is the day of the Sun and The hour of the Sun. (about an hour and a half to two and a half depending on which system you use for division of Planetary hours), and you only really have to initiate the harvest then, you don’t have to complete your harvest within this time frame. Astrologically, Dandelions are ruled by the Sun. (As are Calendula, and St. John’s Wort). So from an Astrodynamic perspective they are energetically at their peak and prime, resonating and ripe, in happy harmony ,( vigorous and vibrant) at this time. Timing is everything. You can tell, if you look for it. There is an extra vibrancy and glow to them. It is not random, and it’s not your imagination.

astrological glyphs, planetary rulerships.
Astrological Glyphs- Planets and Asteroids -Chaldean. Planets and their dynamics with each other and our world are one element at the core of Astrodynamics and Plant Alchemy.,(ignore the Asteroids for now). Each Plant is associated with an astrological sign, planet or both. As is each day, Monday-the Moon, Tuesday-Mars etc., and each “Station” of the Moon as she goes through a Lunar cycle is ruled by a different sign of the Zodiac..

There are other Astrological conditions that you could take into account, but if you are not familiar with the energetic connection between plants and planets, Astrological rulerships, Planetary hours and the basics of Plant Alchemy, this is a great place to start. Especially since you may not have a wide window of time to work with. Does working with plants according to their astrological rulerships make a noticeable difference in quality? I believe so. But,, you will have to try it and find out for yourself.It’s just one of those things. Esoteric, because you have to experience it from the inside to know it. Experience it first hand, first person. It is not exoteric knowledge, learned from the outside as most knowledge is transmitted to us.

Wednesday, Thursday and Friday would be second best choices, ruled by Mercury, Jupiter and Venus in that order. Here is a link to a great site that is a primer for Astrodynamics, Planetary Rulerships, and Plant Alchemy, check it out ,http://humanityhealing.net/2012/08/astrology-and-the-use-of-herbs/

4 – Morning Dew Often, when harvesting herbs for drying, it is important to pick when the dew is dried from them, to avoid encouraging mold and other organisms while they are drying.. When harvesting flowers for wine, you do not have to wait till all the dew has dried off, morning dew is a unique ingredient. So don’t shake it off. If you have it, keep it..

5 – Find a spot where where there is an obvious abundance of Dandelions, an area rich in whatever it is that Dandelions thrive on. Physically and energetically. Don’t get too close to busy roadways where pollution from exhausts might have seeped into the ground, or anywhere there might be a chance herbicides or pesticides may have been used, and stay away from areas that may have been home to, or down hill from old industrial buildings or old land fill sites. Stay away from areas sparsely populated by Dandelion, go for the gusto! There is a reason they grow so thickly in some areas.

6 – Harvest them by hand.. not with scissors or knives. Also, If you have helpers, get someone to do the picking, and someone to nip off all the stubs of stems and anything green that is still attached. (Kids are great at this).The green parts are not needed or desired for wine and will only reduce the colour and add their own flavour. We only want the flavour of the flower. Thumbnails work perfectly for harvesting most flowers.

7 – Since you are taking something, always give something back. Whether something physical that is of benefit to the land or plant, a gesture, or something symbolic. Give and receive. Balance. Nature is big on balance. It is a law you can count on. Like Karma.

8 – Make sure all your bottles, spoons, funnels etc. are clean and sterile, if you can’t boil them then use sodium metabisulfite, a standard preservative and sterilizing chemical available in all wine and beer making supply stores. Follow the instructions for using it. It is very, very important to keep everything clean and not introduce any organisms other than the yeast we are intentionally adding.

9 –. USE WILD GINGER I always add Wild Ginger to every wine I make! I am constantly impressed with the magic it performs and the flavours it adds without being obvious or obtrusive in any way. And I am not just trying to perk up sales of Wild Ginger from my shop either. Wild Ginger lends rich character and depth to a wine. It is absolutely transformative. To any wine. Perhaps due to the complexity of its oils and resins. I have heard historically in old Europe, Clary Sage was used for a similar purpose to create “Muscatel” Wine. Clary Sage is also an herb endowed with essential oils ,(in flower), and resins, (on the stem). About a teaspoon to a teaspoon and a half of ground dried Wild Ginger to each gallon,(4 liters) of liquid. I have found this especially benefits floral wines that need body to compliment their lighter and more ethereal spirit.

A treat for the senses, Wild Ginger, Asarum Canadenses offers infinite delights in the kitchen and Perfume studio.
A treat for the senses, Wild Ginger, Asarum Canadenses offers infinite delights in the kitchen and Perfume studio.

So those are the basics of How to make a kick ass Dandelion Wine, You can use these tips with every wild wine you make, and adapt them to all your foraging forays and wildcrafting projects. Here is a simple recipe. One I hope will suit first timers as well as the practiced maker of wild wines. it can be doubled, tripled or halved. It includes a secondary fermentation which many of the old recipes do not include, but I have I found it refines your end product considerably. making it dryer, crisper, clearer and higher in alcohol content. If you find it too complex as a beginner, you will find many simpler and good recipes online. Take what you can from these tips and incorporate them in your project. Start small.

Remember to Always take notes!!! I can’t stress this enough!! Quantities, ingredients, variations from a recipe, observations, times, dates, and keep them somewhere safe for next year. This is really important and if you do keep diligent notes, I guarantee your future self will thank you! If you already have your favourite recipe, try out the tips and let me know how this seasons wines turned out for you.

MY BEST DANDELION WINE RECIPE

(Makes about 12 liters of Dandelion Wine)

  • 3 Kilograms of cleaned Dandelion flowers.
  • 12 Liters, (quarts) of water.
  • 4 Kilograms sugar, brown or white.
  • 2 cups white seedless Raisins chopped fine, (or an extra cup of sugar).
  • 2 whole large washed Oranges, seeded and either put through the blender or chopped fine.
  • 1 whole, washed Lemon,same as above.
  • 6 whole clove pieces
  • 2-1/2 teaspoons dried and powdered Wild Ginger or 60 grams,(2 oz.) fresh & chopped.
  • 1 packet wine making yeast, or 1 tablespoon regular bread making yeast.
  • 1 cup lukewarm water.
  • 1 food grade white plastic bucket 15 liters capacity,(standard restaurant size used for liquids and muffin mixes, grape juice for wine etc.
  • Large pot that will boil 15 liters.
  • Old and clean Pillowcase.
  • Clear plastic hose for “racking”,(transferring the wine out of containers without the must).
  • Large funnel, and or colander that will sit firmly on top of your bucket.
  • one medium wine making carboy 12-15 liters.
  • or -3 to 4-1 gallon narrow mouthed glass jugs. The kind hot sauce and vinegar come to restaurants. Easy to find on recycling day.
  • Beer or wine bottles with corks or caps.
  • Sodium Metabisulfite for sterilizing. Available at most brew your own shops and anywhere that wine making supplies are sold. Follow directions!
  • All vessels and tools must be sterile.
  • Collect and prepare your Dandelion flowers as directed above.
  • Bring water to a boil,
  • Add flowers, water, sugar, oranges, lemon, cloves, wild ginger, raisins
  • Bring back to a boil for 1/2 hour, simmering on low and covered.
  • Let it sit covered to cool, until it is just cool enough to handle.
  • Pour and strain into plastic bucket through a clean washed pillowcase, or through a colander lined with doubled cheese cloth, nothing beats a pillowcase especially for wringing out the liquid and keeping larger particles from passing into your wine. the colander is just a precaution, and to support the weight, ( ideally find one that your bucket supports, or put the colander in a funnel that sits firmly on the rim of your bucket, or just use a large funnel and sit your pillowcase in it.)
  • Press whatever liquid you can through the pillowcase or cheese cloth. (Make sure your hands are washed and clean first).
  • When liquid is room temperature or a little warmer. Take one cup of liquid, (using a clean or sterile utensil), add it your cup of lukewarm water and stir in the yeast. Let sit for 5-10 minutes or until yeast starts “working”, (it will start creating fizzing or frothing).
  • Add yeast mixture to liquid in plastic bucket, cover with a clean cloth or a clean towel, (tie or use rubber band around the rim so it does not sag and come into contact with the liquid), and let sit for 1 or 2 weeks at room temperature undisturbed or until you can hear no more fizzing.
  • Note, if you do not hear fizzing within 24 hours of adding yeast. Put your liquid back in the pot, boil for 10 minutes, cover, wait for it to cool enough to just above body temperature and go through the process of adding your yeast again.
  • After a week or two, when your wine has stopped “working” or fizzing, “rack” it to a sterile carboy or to your sterile one gallon glass jugs if you don’t have a large narrow necked glass carboy. Racking in wine lingo means siphoning off your clear wine from the must that has settled on the bottom. Pouring it out would just mix in the must and carry its taste over.
  • Keeping a minimum of space between the top of your liquid and the top of the bottle is helpful. If needed add room temperature boiled water to bring liquid level up to 3 to 4 inches from the lip in a gallon jug and 6 to 7 inches in a large carboy.
  • Add CO2 locks, From a wine supply store, about $1.00 each. Or a piece of balloon rubber pulled tightly over the opening and tied, with a couple of pin holes in it for gas to escape and keep organisms out. Let sit, undisturbed in a cool dark place for secondary fermentation. Cool basements are ideal for this.
  • Wait 4-6 weeks, then siphon the wine off the must again, but this time into your sterile bottles.( Note; For those more experienced with wine making, you can do whatever you like at this point. You can put it back in a sterile carboy and continue your secondary fermentation, rack it as often as you like, pump it through a filter, play with the sugar/alcohol content, flavouring etc.)
  • Cork, cap and set aside till December at the earliest.

In December, open, decant, and have a taste of Spring in the middle of Winter.

Remember to keep CLEAR notes. Your future self will thank you.

Dan

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  • Country wine basket
    Country wine basket (Photo credit: wchuang
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Ladybugs and Daffodils

IMG_4048
IMG_4048 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
 Well, we apparently are still in the season of toothaches and heartaches.   Winter.
  Myrrh and the moon took care of the first.
Frankincense and the Sun will, I hope do well for the second. 
    So on that note…..…….
  According to my friend’s emails, spring is already in full swing in England.  I assume, because they are graced by warm Gulf waters. We, in Ontario, however, have no such buffer and will wait for weeks yet till ice, snow and permafrost  move on and allow us to engage the soil productively.  You can’t sow seeds in soil that is as hard and cold as ice.
       This post is for us poor ice-bound farmers and gardeners, still waiting and longing for  warmer fertile days, for Ladybugs and Daffodils.  On the bright side, it gives us more time to plan, be creative, prepare ourselves, to anticipate,,,and, I wonder if we enjoy our summer more than those spoiled Brits with their extra month of summer and their balmy winter. Ha!    Either way, best to enjoy and make the most of what we have .  This post is for those who wait with me, living physically close to  “The Apothecary’s Garden” at the Teaching gardens at Churchill Park. Those who can plan, dream and break soil with me in Westdale when it is finally released to us again.
 
Butterfly Bush and Viceroy Butterfly, Hamilton 2010
Butterfly Bush and Viceroy Butterfly, Hamilton 2010
Hi everyone;
 Another season is about to start. We can all feel it in the air. Though we may yet get a late March or April dump of snow, I am sure I’m not the only one smelling that inspiring aroma of the soil stirring and waking beneath our feet. Not the only one already preparing strategies for this years gardens.
    Between roots, shoots, seeds and cuttings, we will have a bounty of new young plants to share with the community. Spring culling will be one of our first jobs in the garden. As a teaching garden our focus is on maintaining a representative plant or grouping of each specimen showcased in the garden. This means we will be composting or giving away a variety of medicinal, culinary and aromatic plants. Our first choice is to share as many as we can.
  So tell your friends, share a link to this page, spread the word. There is no obligation associated with the plants we are sharing, though we do need volunteers in the garden for  spring and fall “cleanups”, and for ongoing summer watering and care.
If anyone can contribute in some way to the garden this season, we would welcome the support.
If not, no worries, just enjoy the plants. This is after all a community garden.
 We will post the dates of the culling and plant “giveaway”, ( and call for volunteers), on this Facebook page once we get our calendar organized.

Though the Apothecary’s Garden’s focus is on medicinal, culinary and aromatic plants, there is another beautiful old garden on the grounds that we have not had the time or manpower to reclaim.

"Plant Lovers Garden" Churchill Park 2010
“Plant Lovers Garden” Churchill Park 2010
   “The Plant Lovers Garden”, is a  lovely walled-in courtyard that houses a variety of growing environments. Originally built and maintained by the RBG auxiliary, It featured a spectacular collection of exotic and unusual specimens nestled among its rock gardens, stone paths and water features. After years of neglect, overgrowth and theft, it is a sad sight. Each season we manage to keep most of the weeds from choking out what is left of the collection and water it when needed, but it is still in a steady decline and must get a bottom to top renovation before it is too late.
Papaver Somniferum Apothecary's Garden
Papaver Somniferum Apothecary’s Garden
   In conversations with the city 3 years ago, it was suggested that after the Apothecary’s Garden was renovated, the city would work with the community to re-establish the Plant Lovers Garden as well.
If we can get the volunteer manpower and pitch a proposal to the city, it is likely they will support renovating the Plant Lovers Garden and supply whatever materials we need. Perhaps even contribute funds. They have been extremely responsive and supportive of all our efforts till now.
 If anyone is interested, has some ideas, time or resources to share, or would like to take part in re-establishing this beautiful courtyard garden, please let me know, we can use all the help we can get.
If we can get enough volunteers organized for this project, we can approach the city with a plan, and save this unique landmark and peaceful retreat.
    This is a general list of plants we will have available to share with the community in the spring.  We don’t know how many plants we will have, so it will be on a first come first serve basis. We do not have pots or containers at this point so “BYOP” and if you have extra we could probably put a small number to use.

  We also have a wish list of plants we hope to acquire for the garden, it is by no means complete and input from the community is welcome. So if there are any plants you would like to see in our Apothecary’s Garden, or if you have access to one of the plants on our wish list, please leave me a note.

Monarch & Tiger Lily Hamilton Ontario
Monarch & Tiger Lily Hamilton Ontario
Thanks and hope to see you in the Garden this year
Dan Riegler

Spring 2013 Plant sharing list 

Lemon balm

Skullcap, (Lateriflora)
Baikal skullcap, (Chinese)
Elderberry
Anise hyssop
Lavender
Hyssop

Bergamot

Marshmallow
Comfrey
Sweet flag
Blue flag
Hoary Mountain mint
Chocolate Mint
Spearmint
Chives

Bugle
Iris
Yarrow

Tansy
Hops
Perennial flax
Echinacea
Valerian
Poppy
Oregano
Thyme
Pennyroyal

St. John’s wort

Calendula
Russian tarragon
Angelica
Germander
Sweetgrass
Lovage
Clary Sage
Sage

Wood Betony
Prairie sage
Wormwood

Ladies mantle

 

 

Plant wish list for Apothecary’s Garden Churchill Park

Arnica Montana
Bearberry
black cohosh
Blue cohosh
Cost Mary
Cowslip
Elecampane
Lobelia
Madder
Wintergreen

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St. John’s Wort Oil 2012 an “Astrodynamic” Preparation

St. John’s Wort Oil
2012

               Harvested and processed in small batches by hand according to traditionalAlchemical/Astrological methods

St John's Wort Oil 2010

St John’s Wort Oil 2010

Hypericum perforatum (bostryx)
Hypericum perforatum (bostryx) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

St. John’s Wort, A.K.A. Hypericum Perforatum, is a powerful medicinal herb found growing over most of the northern hemisphere. Besides its well-known anti-depressant properties, the oil extracted from its flowers is used externally as a potent wound healer, antibacterial, antiviral ,anti-inflammatory, analgesic,(pain reducer), and as a specific for healing nerve related problems.

  We have records of its use since before the times of ancient Greece by many cultures around the world. A traditional treatment for the pain of bursitis, sciatica, neuralgia and myalgia , it helps heal cuts and wounds in general, and specifically those in nerve rich areas of the body, such as broken or crushed hands or feet. I have come upon references to its ability to clean and heal dirty, festering sores and ulcers, while its well researched anti-inflammatory properties are known for treating sore or swollen joints, sprains,strains,rheumatism and arthritis
.Native St. John's Wort, Israel 2012
                                       In the Home
  In the home it finds a respectable place in the family first aid kit for minor burns, sunburn, dry, itchy and cracked skin, it is a traditional remedy for childhood earaches cuts and scrapes and is known as a soothing treatment for hemorrhoids, piles, caked or sore breasts.

                                   Astrodynamics

English: A table on medical astrology. From an...English: A table on medical astrology. From an Icelandic manuscript, JS 392 8vo, written between 1747 and 1752. Now in the care of the Árni Magnússon Institute in Iceland. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  Astrologically, St. John’s Wort is ruled by The Sun and the sign of Leo.

From an Astrodynamic perspective, the medicinal qualities of St. John,s Wort herb are at their peak when these two astrological influences are prominent and well placed. With an eye to the cycles and placement of the moon, these are the times we cultivate, harvest and process the plant.
.

Science can determine the chemical constituents in each plant, how they affect our bodies and to what degree they are present in the medicine we consume, but it has no methods yet of measuring the energetic qualities of Plants or how they affect us..

 What makes one product of excellent quality and another product with the same ingredients inferior?

When the sun, planets and moon were lined up nicely, the flowers were pounded by hand with cold pressed extra virgin olive oil in one of the larger mortars. An antique from the early 1800′s made from Lignum Vitae, ( Wood of life).  A few liters at a time, packed into large glass vessels to bask in the sun for a “Philosophical month”. A method that after many hundreds of years still consistently yields exceptional results.  Most herbs will not tolerate that kind of direct exposure to the sunlight or the ongoing heat, but St. John’s Wort loves it! ( One way we can tell a plants real  affinities and qualities).

St. John's Wort Oil. Flowers macerating for a "Philosophical Month".

St. John’s Wort Oil. Flowers macerating for a “Philosophical Month”.

  Crystal clear, Ruby red, with a crisp, sharp, fresh fragrance. This years’ oil is a beautiful and potent extraction of the plants healing properties. I believe it is my best yet. Kept properly it will serve well for many years.
If you would like to purchase St. John’s Wort oil, or if you have any questions about it and any other items I make, click on the picture below. It will direct you to a page where I will be happy to answer your questions or arrange shipping some to you.
 Thanks
   Dan

St. John's Wort oil an Astrodynamic preparation  2012 Harvest

St. John’s Wort oil an Astrodynamic preparation, 50 & 100 ML.
2012 Harvest