Dandelions bloom from March to May, offering children seed-filled puffballs for making magic wishes and lawn-proud adults a sunshine-colored nuisance for plaguing their yards. Though they are technically weeds, dandelions are also a delicious and delicately sweet source for white wine that may not grant wishes but is filled with crisp and refreshing magic all its own.
Ingredients and Equipment
Aside from the dandelions themselves, you need water, a sweetening agent and wine-making yeast. The sweetener most often used with dandelion wine is raisins, but you can also use a combination of brown and white sugar, sugar and honey, concentrated grape juice or agave nectar. You need yeast to help ferment the wine, but either winemaking yeast or regular bread yeast works. Many winemaking kits are available for purchase, but all you really need is a large, clean, nonreactive container and a clean dish towel, as well as a mesh strainer and a funnel.
Preparing the Flowers
Pick the dandelions just after the sun comes up to get them at their sweet and tender best. Stay away from flowers that may have been treated with pesticides or other chemicals. Wash the blossoms thoroughly and shake them gently, or blot with paper towels to remove the excess moisture. Pull or snip the yellow petals free. This chore can be time-consuming because it’s best to keep as much of the green part of the blossom out of the wine as you can. A few fragments won’t hurt because all parts of the dandelion are safe to eat, but too much green gives the wine a bitter taste.
Starting the Wine
Place the petals in a bucket and cover them with 1 gallon of boiling water for every gallon of dandelion petals. Let the solution sit for 24 to 48 hours; then strain the liquid, discarding or composting the petals.
There are a several ways to effect fermentation. The first is to add the sweetener to the strained dandelion solution in a large ceramic bowl or a sanitized bucket. Float a piece of stale or toasted bread sprinkled with regular bread yeast on top. Cover the bowl with a dish towel and let it sit for two weeks, stirring it at least once every day. When the wine has stopped fermenting, strain it into sterilized bottles, cork the bottles, and let the wine sit for three to six months. You can also place the strained solution into a large pot and add the sweeteners and citrus, and bring the solution to a boil. Let it cool, transfer it to a sterile container, add a cake of winemaking yeast, cover it with a clean dish towel, and let it sit for at least two weeks. It is crucial that you don’t seal fermenting wine tightly because the gasses building up could make the container explode.
Bottling and Storing
Traditional wine bottles sealed with corks are an efficient and reliable choice for storing dandelion wine, but clean mason jars with screw-on lids also work. The jars don’t have to be sterilized, though they should be thoroughly cleaned. Store the wine in a cool, dark place. Remember that this wine has no preservatives, so once you open a bottle, store it in the refrigerator and finish it within a week.
References and ResourcesUniversity of Maryland Medical Center: Dandelion
Mother Earth News: A Cheap and Easy Homemade Wine Recipe
The Guardian: How to Make Dandelion Wine
Root Simple: Mellow Yellow -- How to Make Dandelion Wine
Chelsea Green Publishing: Wild Fermentation