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Now that spring has arrived, it means summer is not far away and you will soon see a likely unwelcome sight in your yard: dandelions. While some people love these little yellow flowers, they’re technically weeds, so we don’t blame you if you find them unsightly. But, unlike other weeds, you can actually use dandelions to make a delicious drink called dandelion wine.
Dandelion wine is exactly what it sounds like — you turn the dandelions in your yard into wine. Along with, of course, lots of dandelions, making dandelion wine only calls for a few other ingredients and, while it does take a while, it isn’t actually that difficult to make. While you’ll have to wait until you have at least three quarts of dandelion tops (or about 2 pounds), once your yard is full of the weeds, you’ll just need to pick up some oranges, lemons, sugar, wine yeast or champagne yeast and raisins.
This recipe from Common Sense Home begins by letting the dandelions seep in boiled water for three days, stirring daily. You’ll then add orange and lemon zest, boil the mixture again, strain out solids and add sugar. The yeast, orange and lemon slices and raisins are next, with everything going into a crock to ferment for 1-2 weeks, with daily stirring.
Once the fermentation process is almost complete, you can then strain it and transfer it to sterilized bottles, putting a deflated balloon on top of each bottle, which will tell you when fermentation is officially complete once the balloon remains deflated for 24 hours. Or, if you want a clearer wine, you can put it into a gallon carboy with airlock before the final bottling.
It’s important to note that the recipe calls for using the yellow flower petals only — not the green base of the flower, which will make the wine bitter — so if you don’t have enough at once, freeze the petals until you do. You’ll also want to make sure the dandelions you’re using are free of pesticides and herbicides and not in a location where your pets go to the bathroom. The recipe also says to make sure your fermentation vessels are either glass, ceramic, stainless steel or food-grade plastic, as aluminum and iron can react with the wine.
You will also need to store the dandelion wine in a cool, dark place for at least six months before drinking, so while dandelion wine is something you make in the summer, you actually won’t be able to drink it until the winter, or, of course, the next spring. It should have around 12-13% alcohol by volume once it is done fermenting, making it a pretty strong drink!
You can see the full recipes and all the tips and tricks for making dandelion wine on Common Sense Home’s website, but be warned that it does not say what dandelion wine tastes like, other than that it is “rich, golden and warming.” You’ll have to make some yourself to figure out just what it’s like!
Are Dandelions Healthy to Consume?
So, why consume dandelions other than for the simple reason of getting them out of your yard? It turns out that these weeds actually have quite a few health benefits.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, dandelions have several different types of antioxidants throughout the roots, leaves and flowers, with dandelion greens, in particular, being a great source of vitamins and minerals including vitamins A, C and K, folate, calcium and potassium. Lab studies have also found that dandelions can reduce inflammation, manage blood pressure and even help control blood sugar levels in people with diabetes — though you’ll want to consume them differently than in wine if you’re looking for blood sugar benefits, as the wine recipe contains a ton of sugar.
Mount Sinai Hospital in New York says dandelion roots and leaves were used to treat liver problems in the past, with Native Americans boiling them to treat kidney disease, swelling, skin problems, heartburn and upset stomach. In traditional Chinese medicine, dandelion has been used to treat stomach problems, appendicitis and lack of milk flow for lactating women, while in Europe, it was used in remedies for fever, boils, eye problems, diabetes and diarrhea.
Healthier Dandelion Recipes
If you’re considering trying dandelion for the health benefits, you’ll probably want to use them for something other than wine, like in salads or tea.
This recipe for dandelion tea from Homespun Seasonal Living calls for just two ingredients: dandelion petals and water. You can also simply chop them up and toss them in a salad, sauté them with eggs, make dandelion jelly for toast or try frying them by mixing the blossoms with egg, milk, flour, salt and pepper.
If you want to enjoy the benefits of dandelions without making anything yourself, you can instead buy a handful of products right at your local grocery store. You’ll find dandelion tea from a variety of brands including Traditional Medicinals and Lipton, or you can simply take dandelion root extract in capsule form. This dandelion extract from Amazon is priced at $21 for 200 capsules. With close to 2,000 reviews so far, customers give it 4.6 out of five stars, saying it helps with swelling, inflammation and water retention.
Not convinced to keep dandelions around for eating or drinking? Here’s some natural ways to kill and prevent dandelions and other weeds.