I have decided to preserve dandelions this year, inspired by Ray Bradbury’s spectacular story, “Dandelion Wine.” I want to capture a bit of the magic and promise that these early blooms provide. In the book, Bradbury describes the wine made from the blossoms as “summer in your hand,” “the essence of this fine fair month,” to be enjoyed “on a January day with snow falling fast.”
It is still early April and the blossoms are just beginning to appear. As I searched the ground for the flowers, the golden glow emanating from the blooms shone like a spotlight, drawing me in. The sweet pungent smell recalled the scent memories of childhood, plucking petals while sitting in the grass. My fingertips were instantly stained yellow-orange as I plucked the heads off the stems. As I held the sunlight warmed blooms in my hand my senses were heightened and I was in heaven.
As I walked along with my treasure, I couldn’t help but sing the Gorillaz song “Clint Eastwood.” The lines “I ain’t happy, I’m feeling glad. I got sunshine in a bag. I’m useless but not for long. The future is coming on. It’s coming on,” kept repeating in my head. It was a wonderful time.
I still have a long way to go to have enough for making wine but the season is just getting started. In the meantime, I cleaned, separated, and froze the petals.
To clean the flowers, I diluted a bit of vinegar in cold water and soaked them to remove any dirt and stowaway ants still clinging on.
It was a bit of a challenge and very time-consuming to remove the petals. I will reconsider my process for the next harvest. I might try to separate the petals while they are still dry and then clean them afterwards.
After spending so much time collecting and cleaning my dandelions, I didn’t want any part to go to waste. I found the perfect thing for the green parts that would have otherwise been discarded. I put them in a mason jar and poured apple cider vinegar on top. The flower bits will soak in the vinegar for a month and take on all the nutrients of the flowers. After a month, I’ll strain the flowers out and use the vinegar in cooking or by the tablespoon. I also read that the flower bits can be eaten (though I’m not sure how I feel about pickled dandelions – but I guess we’ll see!)
These so-called “weeds” are packed with beneficial properties. The nutrients and minerals in dandelion are vitamin A, B, C, E, and K, Iron, Folate, Calcium, Potassium, and Magnesium. As Bradbury writes, “A common flower, a weed that no one sees. But for us, a noble thing, the dandelion.”