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What's Bloomin

Jim Boxberger - Correspondent
Posted 5/7/21

Spring has sprung and the flowers are blooming. Forsythia with their bright golden flowers have been blooming for over a month now and some are showing no signs of stopping.

The cooler nighttime …

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What's Bloomin

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Spring has sprung and the flowers are blooming. Forsythia with their bright golden flowers have been blooming for over a month now and some are showing no signs of stopping.

The cooler nighttime weather we have been having has added to their blooming time. Now we also have the bright purple of the PJM rhododendrons that are showing off in people's yards across the county now and soon we will see the vibrant reds and oranges of the flowering quince.

Not to be overshadowed by a well manicured yard, mother nature has been busy in the woods as well. You might notice all the trees in the woods with white blossoms on them right now. Many of them are either wild apple, pear or cherry, all of which make great cross pollinators for the fruit trees in your yard.

These are all flowers that we like to see this time of year, but there is one flower most people don't like to see, the Dandelion. Dandelions are out now and most homeowners are cringing at the thought of battling these noxious weeds for another year. But you can do more with dandelions than just put weed killer on them.

I have a new guy in our garden center named Chris that has a recipe for dandelion jelly. He says he will make some soon and bring it in for us to try. There are recipes online for dandelion salads and my favorite is dandelion wine. Dandelion wine is made from the flowers, not the leaves of the plant.

Here is one recipe for making one gallon of dandelion wine: 1 package, 7 grams, dried brewing yeast, 1/4 cup warm water, 2 quarts whole dandelion flowers, 4 quarts water, 1 cup orange juice, 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice, 1/2 teaspoon powdered ginger, 3 tablespoons orange zest, 1 tablespoon lemon zest, 6 cups sugar.

Since dandelion wine is a light wine without body, other ingredients are used to add body. Golden raisins, white grape juice, orange juice and dates have all been used. The lighter the color, the more “true” the dandelion wine will look. Wash and clean the blossoms well.

Think of it as a fruit or vegetable; you don't want bugs or dirt in your food. Remove all green material and soak flowers for two days. Place the blossoms in the four quarts of water, along with the lime, orange, and lemon juices. Stir in the ginger, orange zest, lemon zest, and sugar. Bring the mix to a boil for an hour.

This creates the ‘infusion' that will later become wine after fermentation. Strain through filter papers like coffee filters and let the infusion cool down for a while. Stir the yeast in while the infusion is still warm, but below 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Cover it and leave it alone, let it stand overnight.

Pour it into bottles, poke a few holes in a balloon and place over the tops of the bottles to create an airlock, to keep out unwanted wild yeasts, and store them in a dark place for at least three weeks so that it can ferment. At this point you now have wine, although it may be a little rough.

When we were kids, my cousin Bobby and I made some elderberry wine and taste tested it at about the three to four week mark and yes it was rough. Rack the wine several times which we didn't know about when we were kids. Racking means waiting until the wine clears, then siphoning or pouring the liquid into another container, leaving the sediment at the bottom of the first container. Cork and store the bottles in a cool place.

This is why many old farmhouses and boarding houses had wine cellars as well as root cellars. These days a cool garage or basement will work. Allow the wine some time to age. Most recipes recommend waiting at least six months, preferably a year. Now if I have peaked your interest in wine making, but you don't have two quarts of dandelions sitting around, you can substitute other fruits in place of the dandelions.

There are many recipes on the internet or you can go old school and take a trip to the library, there are many books on the subject. No matter what you do, you should have a spirited time, pun intended.

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