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Samburu County Frankincense and the mystery of the bicoloured Boswellia

A short update before I return to the Kenyan bush and comunication silence.
Though I’ll focus on the more current events in Kenya with the Samburu women since they are fresh, I will return in the next few weeks to expand on the equally important landmarks of my stay in Ethiopia which are, in brief-

An ethical Civet farm

My meeting with Civet farmers and exporters in Ethiopia was ground-breaking. We had a very productive conversation and co-created a basic plan of action to establish the world’s first model Civet farm that can provide an “Ethical” source for Ethiopian Civet paste and products to the West.
Though only the first of many conversations to come, both sides have their roles to play in the next year to make this happen for the benefit of the farmers, Civets, and the economy of this developing country.

We, in the West, now have the opportunity to be actively engaged in solving the problems and not just turn our backs on them with an ineffectual and counter productive boycott as we have for the past 40-50 years. If you are concerned about ethics in perfumery this may be an opportunity to get involved.

A fair trade in sustainable Frankincense

The second major landmark of my stay in Addis Ababa was meeting with my Somali  Frankincense co-op manager who shares my own vision of fair trade and sustainability.  Working directly with the western market, bypassing middlemen and benefitting the harvester communities with tools, training, education and medical facilities, he has signed yearly renewable contracts with the elders of 5 communities to work in mutual transparently for the benefit of the community and has committed to sell their resins to us. (Another opportunity to get involved in a worthwhile project). He has initiated a replanting program in the wild to maintain ecological sustainability and is working on a  long-term replanting and sapling maintenance program with the harvesters. This co-op will provide Boswellia Carterii, the higher grades of B. Frereana, (which we rarly see in the West), Myrrh and Opoponax.
At the moment we are discussing possible markets in the West and logistics of shipping. Professor Dagne may make his expertise and facilities in Ethiopia available for distillation of essential oils from their resins. I will keep you posted. If anyone has an interest in large amounts of these resins please contact me. For regular retail quantities, keep an eye on my shop.

A sustainable fair trade platform for the Samburu women

As some of you know, the purpose of my visit to Kenya is to help the resin harvesting  women of the Samburu tribe gain greater beneifit for themselves, their families and communities via a fair trade platform and co-op.

Originally planned as a 3 day visit to Samburu County, my host Andre of Indiginous Collective has graciously facilitated my request to stay an extra week in the field to make the most of our work with the Samburu.

We returned yesterday evening from 4 days in the bush so I could catch up on correspondence and other obligations. We drive back up Tuesday or Wednesday to speak with more women about the co-op and purchase their resins.

Death Stalker Scorpion under UV light
Nightly campsite visitors-Death Stalker Scorpion under UV light.

A short description of the last 4 days would be abbreviated as- gorgeous cool mornings and evenings, sun stroke days, pristine semi-arid plains, sand, magnificent mountains, adorable wart hogs,  ostriches, elephants, a thousand exotic birds, hordes of baboons, a ridiculously vast night sky blazing with stars, death stalker scorpions who phosphoresce under a UV light, lions, leopards, dry river beds with Ebony driftwood and not the tiniest shred of plastic refuse, water shyly hiding under the ground and in the desert air, herds of sheep, goats and camels, beaded women, pretty Moran warriors,  biting mosquitoes, big hairy spiders, and hundreds of square kilometers of mixed Myrrh and Frankincense trees growing naturally as if planted intentionally. As far as the eye can see!!

Commiphora, Boswellia and Acacia
Commiphora, Boswellia and Acacia as far as the eye can see. 

The Samburu have not had the exposure or experience with the “Muzungu”, or white person, as their cousins the Maasai. Pastoralists living in isolation and such hot arid conditions, their lives focus around their flocks which are entrusted to the Moran caste. When  the Morans reach about 30 years of age they can marry and a new generation of young men carries on with care and protection of the livestock. Elder men are the decision makers and are looked up to. Women do all the domestic work and care for the families. Work that takes up most of their day.

27-_DSC4051
Deep in thought, Ystalia harvests resins and is letting other women harvester know about the co-op and new market. She led us to her Boswellia Neglecta trees and other medicinals she collects in the area. Hubby in the background. Lovely people both. Photo Minna Kalliokoski

Our work with the women entails going through tiny remote villages which are basically clusters of oval, round topped homes made of branch, vine, thatch and leather. These “Manyatas” are residence to one or two extended families via dirt roads. Some may see a car once a month and most travel is by foot in the hot sun. Water is fetched from often remote areas though people like Andre are dedicated to creating easy access to clean water for the Samburu and their herds.

Likely the most important and unexpected result of this “tour”, was the wealth of information that was shared with us by the Samburu on the medicinal and cultural functions of many of the local trees, plants and animals. The Samburu have a well-developed medicinal, spiritual/mystical and astrological tradition. They have a strong connection to the planet Venus and their creation myth tells of their origin on Venus before migrating to earth. This is reflected in the Ankh/Venus type adornment worn on the forehead of many Samburu  women.

 

 

  The mystery of the bi-coloured Boswellia resin, Commiphora “Aqua Velva” and a Frankincense tree that squirts essential oil.

 

“Confounded and perplexed I was”, to hear that over the past decades botanists had aggregated 6 different types of Kenyan Boswellia under the name Boswellia Neglecta S. Moore. Currently it is considered by many to be the only Frankincense in the area. This in itself was enough to make me question the larger picture and accuracy of accepted distribution of Frankincense types in Kenya. So far, I belive we have come across 5 unique species of Boswellia in only 4 days.

If this discrepancy was not enough, imagine my raised eyebrow when I was repeatedly told the Samburu women collected 2 types of “incense”,  a black and a white from the same tree! Yes, 2 resin types from one tree. I had to get to the bottom of this.

Frankincense-Boswellia Neglecta
Frankincense-Boswellia Neglecta as know today.

If you haven’t had the pleasure of meeting B. Neglecta personally, it is known and accepted as a blackish, grainy, fragrant oleoresin that appears in a lumpy form similar to our northern spruce and pine saps, and not in the clear/opaque aggregate of tear shapes associated with other Frankincense types.

So how can both clear light tears, and most definitely solid black tar like resin be collected from one tree I ask?
We spent 4 days in the semi-arid broiling sun of Samburu county, speaking with harvester women from numerous villages and were taken to the hills where one woman gathers her Frankincense resin.

Imagine my surprise when I discovered for myself, with my own eyes, hands, nose, and mouth, that indeed, this particular Boswellia yields not one resin, but 2 distinct and disparate types of resin with completely different characteristics and fragrances!
When injured, the tree’s first response is as expected. It produces globules of a clear slightly golden oleoresin, sticky and particularly fragrant which harden into translucent tears.

 

Boswellia Neglecta-fresh sap
Boswellia Neglecta-fresh sap. 

 

However, what happens next is completely unexpected in a Boswellia tree.
The tree creates traumatic resin ducts, (TRDs), and changes the chemical composition of the oleo resin to a “Callus” resin product much like our conifers. A grainy therapeutic living bandage that not only protects the exposed surface of a wound, but facilitates the growth of special tissue and bark from the edges of the wound towards the middle. If a branch is stripped, it forms a barrier between the stripped portion and the healthy part of the branch protecting it from the spread of decay.

In our Spruce and Pine families this unique resin product is often of a brown colour. In the case of B. Neglecta this callus resin is black as pitch and of a rich deep woody frankincense fragrance. The callus resin of  the Spruce tree is a potent medicinal used to heal old wounds, ulcers on the extremities and slow-healing surgical wounds in Scandinavian traditions. One can only wonder what medicinal properties lay undiscovered in the callus resin of B. Neglecta.

This post is likely long enough for most people’s attention span, so I will till next time to tell you about the fragrant and brilliantly blue/aquamarine coloured Commiphora/Myrrh tree which I have dubbed “Commiphora Aqua Velva”. Its bracing fragrance does indeed remind one of the aftershave, but of course, it is much nicer :-).

At that time I will share another cool find. A unique and as yet unidentified Frankincense tree that squirts pure essential oil when pricked and is used by the Samburu as a fragrance and sexual attractant.

Many thanks to the talented Minna Kalliokoski for her photography and all her help on this trip.

Till then

Dan

 

 

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How to make Violet Syrup-a Wildflower Recipe

A Wood Sprite told me last week it was almost Friday, and she had spied some Violets open and ready, suggested it might be time to make some Violet flower syrup. Unfortunately it rained most of that day, so visiting the Violets was postponed. I hope this coming Friday the weather will be better suited for harvesting Violet flowers.

English: Violets on the Flitch Way Sweet Viole...
English: Violets on the Flitch Way Sweet Violets Viola odorata growing along the old Braintree to Bishops Stortford Railway. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

   It is a simple recipe and provides the most gorgeous purple cooling and refreshing summer drink. Though it is a bit of a delicate procedure, temperature being critical to colour, it is well worth the effort.  It is the prettiest and  the most refreshing summer drink I have ever made! One other cool thing about Violet flower syrup, is that when you mix it in water it transforms to a translucent Lavender colour, and if you decide to “tarten” it up a bit with an acid  like lemon juice, it transforms to magenta! But if you add an alkaline to it, it will turn Green! (Mineral water??). Historically it was used a one of the first “Litmus” papers, before there were Litmus papers. 

  You can mix it with water or club soda/Perrier and still get the lovely colour changes and superb refreshment. Medicinally it is great for cooling down heated conditions, physically and emotionally,(anger etc.). Similarly, the leaves are traditionally used to treat “hot” tumors, boils, inflammations etc.

Violets
Venus And Violets

 Astrodynamically, like Friday, it is Ruled by Venus, Planet of beauty and Love among other things, and is cooling and moist in its nature. (As opposed to Saturns energy which can be cold and dry. 

  • As with most other flower wines, we want as much of the coloured petals and the least amount of green stem or leaf possible. When you find a nice thick carpet of flowering Violets in all their royal Spring purpleness, you will often be able slide your slightly parted fingers under the flowers, close the gaps between your fingers as you withdraw your hand, and harvest quite a few flowers at a time. Then just keep skimming them with your fingers, popping off the flowers till your hand can hold no more and you start picking more off the ground than you are collecting. Put them in your bag or basket and keep on skimming, moving over the more thickly populated areas till you have the required amount. Don’t be fooled by how simple the process is, it does take time to accumulate any significant quantity. Especially since they need to be compacted before they are measured for your syrup. I usually use a large paper liqueur store bag to collect them, keeping them always in the shade and cool. Then, off to home to do a final cleaning, separating as much green as I can, discarding any leaf, stem, substandard, dried or aged flowers.

Wild Violets-Viola Odorata

In our area we can find purple Violets, White Violets, white Violet flowers with purple speckles and various combinations of the three. For Violet Syrup we only want Purple flowered Violets. The deeper the colour, the better. Don’t be surprised if you find they don’t have much of a fragrance. At least in our area of North America. For many years I assumed that being a perfume ingredient, Violet flowers would have a fragrance worth capturing, they don’t. In perfume Violet leaf absolute is used, it has a sweet, green, floral earthy scent and imparts a beautiful green hue to your perfume. I know that Pansies, which are cousins of Viola Odorata, ( and edible in reasonable quantities), do sometimes have a lovely scent, and someday I will try making a Violet syrup from a purple fragrant strain. 

 Viola Odorata

Violet flowers do not dry very easily. Well, they dry easily enough but also lose their colour very easily. Perhaps pressed in the leaves of a book, safe from any moisture and absolutely no  heat or UV rays they might keep longer. In general they fade quickly with exposure to light. So something to keep in mind, is to store your dried Violets and your violet flower syrup in as dark a place as possible, cool is good too, so a fridge does come to mind.

  • If you are going to harvest Violet flowers for syrup, please have a look at  my earlier blog, “9 tips for  making a Kick ass Wild flower Wine”. It will give you some insight how to make the very best Violet syrup.
  • One difference between making Violet Syrup and Dandelion Wine, is that it is best if the Violet flowers are dry. Not so much because of spoilage, but because we want to avoid anything that might dilute their beautiful colour such as a higher water content in the recipe..
  • Violets proliferate and propagate themselves by seed and root, and though they are extremely resilient, please be considerate of the plants. 
  • Don’t harvest them all. If there is an abundance of them, spread your “footprint” out so your harvest is not too obvious.
  • Leave some for others to enjoy. Good Wild crafting etiquette.
  • Always give something back, Nature loves balance and will always find a way to keep it. Whether it is at your expense or not.

Paper bag, an open bucket or basket kept in the shade, are the rule for harvesting most herbs and mushrooms in the wild. Plastic does not allow air circulation, holds in moisture, can be a breeding ground for bacteria, especially if you don’t get to process your herbs immediately as can often happen with the complexities of life. Plastic containers can accelerate decomposition, especially if it is warm out,. It can cause them to wilt, and age before you even get your harvest to the kitchen. With Violet flowers, I find sometimes it is a good idea to fluff them up occasionally, allowing fresh air to the ones that are getting packed into the bottom of your collection. This also helps disperse any dew or rain that might be lingering on them. They are a more delicate harvest than most.

 A RECIPE FOR WILD VIOLET FLOWER SYRUP

  • 4 cups, or a one liter container, of cleaned, very tightly packed fresh Violet flowers.
  • 6 cups, or 1-1/2 liters of boiling water
  • 16 cups, or approximately 4 Kilograms of white sugar.
  • Do NOT add lemon juice! Though someone I very much respect calls for this in a violet flower syrup recipe, it will turn your beautiful purple to a magenta, which, though nice, is something you can do later in a glass with your purple syrup. If you add it while making your syrup, you will immediately lose the purple of the Violet.

Preparation

  • Put Violet flowers in a glass or enameled pot with lid. Only use stainless steel if you have to.
  • Bring water to a boil.
  • Pour the water over the Violet Flowers, cover tightly.
  •  Let sit overnight at room temperature or slightly above it. On top of the fridge sometimes works.
  • After 24 hours or so, press out as much of the liquid as you can.  (See nylon stocking in how to make a kick ass dandelion wine), or use a clean herb press with a nylon stocking.
  •  Measure out your purple liquid and put it through a very clean paper, (or mesh), coffee filter. (Make sure to enjoy the colour!).
  • Add your liquid to the now washed and clean pot.
  • For every 1 Cup, of liquid, add 2-1/4 cups white granulated sugar.
  • Bring slowly to a boil on medium heat stirring till sugar dissolves.
  •  Skim of the scum as it collects, (It will be a beautiful purple colour), but DO NOT LET IT COME TO A FULL BOIL!
  • Take it off the heat,
  • Wait for 5 minutes and repeat the process. Again, stirring, but do not let it actually boil.
  • Take it off the heat. Put the lid back on and let it cool till it can be handled or poured into vessels without cracking them.
  • If you have hot sterile bottles or jars to store it in, then use them. (You can pour it in hot). Personally, I love having it sit in a cut glass decanter. Beautiful to behold! I find it will keep for a few weeks, (or longer) in a decanter, months if I sterilize it first. (With Sodium Metabisulphite,make sure to follow the instructions that come with it.)   If you don’t have sterile canning jars or bottles, keeping it in the fridge will preserve it for weeks if not months.
  • Because of the lack, (and the expectation), of a sweet fragrance, I will often add one drop per two cups syrup, of essential oil of Neroli, distilled from the flowers of the bitter orange, right before I bottle the syrup. Feel free to explore this path of enhancing the Violet flower syrup, but keep in mind to only use real essential oils, never fragrance oils or chemically identical substitutes. Another point to keep in mind is that some fragrances are much stronger than Neroli essential oil, such as Jasmine Absolute. So use them accordingly.

 Have fun.
 And remember to always keep notes. Your future self will thank you.

Dan

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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 (Photo credit: wchuang
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Friday

Friday again. Beautiful.  One of those few days in the week that anything can be harvested or processed. Not only ruling  beauty and love, being an earth sign, Venus ,or Freya’s day is a day perfect for making things, manifesting on the physical plane. A day for creativity, especially. Creativity inspired or rooted in Love. Adoration, worship or Devotion.
Friday is a day I wait for each week. No wonder that in Judaism,  Friday is the day to prepare oneself for the Sabbath, the day of rest. ( Sabbath= Shabtai= Saturn= limits, cessation, the metal lead, ). Especially important on Friday is the preparation of all food to be consumed on the Sabbath. ( did I mention Venus also rules food, its preparation, consumption and enjoyment?).
If you have a partner, this is the day to acknowledge,  nurture and celebrate those aspects of the partnership that nourish and inspire you.
If you are lucky enough to have a deep spiritual/ emotional/ sexual partnership with someone,  this is your day together. A day for the gift shared between you. For me, this is the best day of the week to experience  the beauty, Love and transcendence it brings to you both. A day to manifest that Love in this physical world in any and all ways. Bake a pie, make a tincture, make Love, write something beautiful, walk in the woods.
Venus also has to do with Mother Nature and this beautiful planet that sustains us with its unconditional Love. So this is a day to be with Nature, enjoy and revel in her beauty, consider your relationship with Her as one of Love and devotion, mutual adoration . Make an offering, go for a walk, harvest for healing and for beautiful delicious food. Note the endless variation and diversity of materials, shapes and living things She offers us. The abundance of gifts She offers us to work with, to craft with inspiration and experience so we can sublimate and elevate raw materials into items that add beauty to our lives,  medicine that heals and beautiful food that nourishes our bodies and spirits. These things She cannot do alone. Only we can raise them to a higher level. And the higher qualities we bring to the materials we work with, are directly tied to the qualities of our relationship with Her.  What this means is that a deep respect for Mother Nature, a close or intimate connection, a excellent rapport and an attitude of devotion or adoration, or even just an acknowledgement of a relationship and Her presence as a unique entity, will raise and deepen our relationship with her and at the same time, allow us to better work in harmony with her, rather than forcing our will upon her. We have gotten so caught up in science and chemistry that we have abandoned the basic relationships that brought us their gifts in the first place. 
In some ways our relationship with Mother Nature is the primary Man/Woman dynamic. Where mankind,(male or female), is the masculine energy and Mother Nature the Woman in this relationship.  But I will leave that story for another time and another post.

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Venus Rising

Ahh, What a gorgeous fresh crisp morning… Beautiful clear sunrise and Venus rising ahead, ushering the sun through the dusk as if flagging the upcoming day as dedicated to Her. A day of beauty, Love and bounty. A perfect day to harvest in the wild. Time to go over my list and check it twice.
I am getting better at marking plant harvest times early in the year in my calendar so I don’t miss the unique windows of opportunity each plant might offer. Timing really is everything when it comes to quality. With intent clear, early in the year, one can almost just stand with arms open and collect the best specimens as they present themselves. As the days march by. When I know from the start that this cycle I will be making Elderberry wine or cough syrup, or candied Wild Ginger, then it feels almost like all I have to do is stand in place and grab them as they pass by, at exactly the right time, in the proper manner and presto,,, i have the highest quality herbs harvested at exactly the time when their physical and energetic properties are at their peak. Of course this not only allows me to prepare the highest quality medicinal and culinary items, but gives me a product with a greatly extended shelf life where color and fragrance are vivid and endure much longer than randomly plucked herbs, and from what I can tell without analytic laboratory equipment their medicinal properties are at their peak as well.
There are some things that only years of practical experience can give us. Many things actually. And then we die….but hopefully, not without leaving some legacy or trail of breadcrumbs, or Blog behind us. :-).