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The Campsite Forage: Dandelion Wine

How to fund a nomadic lifestyle

Dandelion wine is one of our favourite wines to make and definitely one of the best for the campsite, hedgerow or field forage. Mainly because it tastes so good but also because a good dandelion picking day has to be warm and sunny and it’s usually accompanied with a bottle of last years wine and a bunch of friends.

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We have our favourite picking spots where we arrive with a picnic, go for a walk and just before returning to the camper van we collect bucket loads of dandelion heads. That part is the best part as the next bit turns your fingers yellow and smells quite bitter, but with the remains of the bottle of wine it never actually seems too bad.

Firstly, before you embark on any type of homebrewing you must be sure you have the right equipment and it’s all clean and sterilised. Secondly, you must always make sure you’ve foraged far away from any kind of pollution or sprays, and with landowner permission. It’s also best to pick on warm sunny days as the natural sugars and yeast (and therefore strength of flavour) will be best at this time.

Dandelions seem to have two blooms in the Spring and late summer. The flower is particularly prevalent after a lot of rain, so in the UK we will be seeing many of them over the next week so you better get foraging.

What you will need:

Homebrew kit. If you’re not sure about this there’s a great book about Booze For Free you can pick up from our store with everything you need to know… and then some!
6 pints (3.4 l) glasses of dandelion flowers slightly pressed down in the glass (the yellow part only as the green adds a very bitter taste)
Finely peeled rind and juice of 1 orange
Finely peeled rind and juice of 1 lemon
8 Pints (4.5 l) of water 
3 lbs (1.5 kg) sugar
4 Fl oz (12 ml) strong black tea cooled and strained
0.25 oz (10g) wine yeast

Put the yellow petals, orange peel, lemon peel and water into a large saucepan and bring to the boil. Simmer for 20 minutes. Strain the water into another container and add the sugar. Stir until it dissolves and add the tea, orange and lemon juice. When its cool add the yeast and cover it well. Stir daily for 3-5 days. Siphon into demijohns and seal with an airlock and leave for about 2-3 months. It’s ready to drink within 7 months but will taste even better if left much longer.

We cracked open our year old dandelion wine only the other night and it had a taste that resembled whisky as I’d added a few extra raisins in the brewing process, making it very drinkable indeed! It’s even possible to make dandelion beer from the roots of young plants in the Spring, just like the popular coffee and tea substitute aptly named ‘Dandelion Root’. Remember it is also an edible wild plant so food foragers will be happy to hear they can use young leaves in salad and cook the older leaves similar to spinach, or add them to soups and sauces.

Dandelion can stimulate the metabolism and cleanse the blood. It’s a natural diuretic so it is said it can help to treat acne, liver, stomach, gout and rheumatism conditions. Its value lies in its active agents, which can also cause its bitter taste. Namely tannins, vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, organic acids essential oils and much more.

So when you’re next at your camping site, take a look around you and see if you can spot enough dandelions to add a bit of zing to your salad, or brew up a couple of demijohns of wine or a flagon of beer. One thing’s for sure… if you do you’ll never look at another dandelion ‘weed’ in the same way again.

Inspired Camping

Picture credit: 23 Feet

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