Bon Appetit Wednesday! Bottle the Taste of Summer with Dandelion Wine

Dandelion_sunIt’s the height of summer in the northern hemisphere where the lazy sun brings us long, hot days of outdoor activities, friends and family, vacations and lots of relaxation. Today it’s just a weed, but once upon a time nothing said summer like the dandelion and the year’s first batch of dandelion wine. Nowadays, we fight these plants to keep them from invading our perfectly manicured summer lawns, but these tiny pieces of sunshine have been valued by many civilizations since ancient times. This week we’re bringing you a recipe for dandelion wine so you can bottle your own bit of sunshine. But first, let’s find out why the dandelion has been so popular through history and how it lost its status in our modern society.

Taraxacum_officinale_-_Köhler–s_Medizinal-Pflanzen-135Dandelions—from the Middle French “tooth of the lion” for the shape of its leaves—were prized as a food and medicine by many ancient civilizations including the Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, Chinese and Persians. Theseus, the mythical king of Athens, was said to have eaten a dandelion after he killed the Minotaur.[1] Romans ate the plant and used it medicinally. They spread its use to the Gauls and the Celts.[2] The ancient Egyptians used it to treat kidney and stomach disorders.[3] The Chinese continue to use it in modern times as a medicinal tea.[4] The first people to write extensively about the dandelion and its medicinal uses were Persian physicians from the 10th and 11th centuries CE. They called it either tarashaquq or by its Latin name, Taraxacum, and described it as being like an endive or like chicory.[5] Each civilization used it for its nutritional as well as medicinal value. It has been used for centuries to aid the liver, purify the body of toxins, boost the immune system and cure numerous ailments including baldness, dandruff, toothache, sores, fevers, rotting gums, weakness, lethargy and depression.[6]

dandelion-108459_640Besides being a powerful medicinal plant, the dandelion is a lovely flower that was also appreciated for its beauty. When it was brought to the New World by colonists as medicine and food, it probably also served as a sunny reminder of home in the midst of a difficult situation.[7] The plant was treasured even as lawn care became important over the decades. And then, slowly, green lawns became preferable and the dandelion was reduced to an invasive weed to be eliminated at any cost. Pesticides were employed to rid pristine lawns of the dandelion weed. Thankfully, the plant’s nutritious and healthy benefits weren’t completely forgotten and today it is a cultivated crop around the world. In fact, in Vineland, New Jersey, the official Dandelion Capital of the World, they host an annual seven-course dandelion dinner each spring complete with dandelion wine.[8] Among the dishes served are dandelion meatballs, dandelion salads and dandelion raviolis.

You can enjoy dandelions in a variety of ways. Humans can actually eat every part of the dandelion. The leaves can be boiled like spinach or eaten raw in salads. The roots can also be eaten raw in salads, fried or roasted. The yellow buds can be eaten straight off the stem, ground into flour or of course made into wine.[9] Rich in many essential vitamins, this versatile plant provides such benefits as folic acid, riboflavin, potassium, niacin, vitamin -E and vitamin-C and is a strong antioxidant.

This summer enjoy an ancient delight and distill all of the sights and sounds of summer into a delicious dandelion wine. Here’s a toast to your health!

Dandelion Wine

*Recipe courtesy of AllRecipes.

Makes 4 quart jars

Ingredients

  • 1 quart yellow dandelion blossoms, well rinsed1 gallon boiling water
  • 1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast
  • 8 cups white sugar
  • 1 orange, sliced
  • 1 lemon slice

Instructions

  1. Place dandelion blossoms in the boiling water, and allow to stand for 4 minutes. Remove and discard the blossoms, and let the water cool to 90 degrees F (32 degrees C).
  2. Stir in the yeast, sugar, orange slices, and lemon slice; pour into a plastic fermentor, and attach a fermentation lock. Let the wine ferment in a cool area until the bubbles stop, 10 to 14 days. Siphon the wine off of the lees, and strain through cheesecloth before bottling in quart-sized, sterilized canning jars with lids and rings. Age the wine at least a week for best flavor.

 

 

[1] Common Dandelion – The Lion’s Tooth. (n.d.). . Retrieved July 21, 2014, from http://wssa.net/wp-content/themes/WSSA/WorldOfWeeds/dandelion.html

[2] Ibid.

[3] Dandelions: The Uncommon Weed. (n.d.). . Retrieved July 21, 2014, from http://www.msubillings.edu/cotfaculty/fullon/Files/COMT130%20Dandelions%20speech.commentary.pdf

[4] Dandelion. (n.d.). Chinese Medicine Living Dandelion Comments. Retrieved July 21, 2014, from http://www.chinesemedicineliving.com/blog/nutrition/foods-temperatures/dandelion/

[5] Dandelion. (n.d.). A Modern Herbal. Retrieved July 21, 2014, from http://www.botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/d/dandel08.html

[6] Sanchez, A. (n.d.). Ten Things You Might Not Know About Dandelions. Dandelions. Retrieved July 21, 2014, from http://www.mofga.org/Default.aspx?tabid=756

[7] Ibid.

[8] Dandelions: The Uncommon Weed.

[9] Common Dandelion – The Lion’s Tooth.

Graffiti From Ancient to Modern Times: Memorialization, Human Expression and the Art That Will Not Die

Image courtesy of April Holloway.

Credit: Lincolnshire Medieval Graffiti Project

Graffiti has been around since time immemorial.  From ancient caves to carved mountainsides to splendiferous murals, pictures have been splashed and carved on walls and surfaces throughout time and across cultures.  Self-expression, political agitation, vendettas, advertisements—all reasons for some to bring out the paint and depict what moves them most.  There is something inherently primal in the need to memorialize one’s self and time.  Indeed, graffiti’s immediacy and rawness of expression can astonish, whether found deep in the caves of Lascaux or in the modern day artistic gyrations of the anonymous British artist Banksy. Continue reading

Bon Appetit Wednesday! Halawet El-Riz: A Ramadan Dessert for the Ages

ramadan Halawet Al RizRamadan is coming to a close and we thought we’d share a wonderful dessert recipe that is a favorite.  It is a perfect way to end an iftar or evening meal that breaks the fast that the faithful observe each day during the Islamic holy month. The recipe below for Halawet El-Riz conjures up a rice, cheese and cream dish that is interesting not only in its delectable fusion of ingredients, but as is so with many recipes, because it is the culinary result of human endeavor through the centuries. Continue reading

Mulan: The Journey From Ancient Tale to Disney Blockbuster

MulanIn our blog series on the historic origins of Disney films, we’ve found that being literary archaeologists pays off. Digging into these films reveals layer upon layer of historic events and tales from all over the globe, each serving as inspiration for the next generation of storytellers, and culminating in the present-day retellings that we now experience at the movies. Continue reading

Bon Appetit Wednesday! Celebrate Germany’s World Cup Win with Ancient Sauerkraut

Kiszona_kapustaIn honor of Germany’s World Cup win last Sunday, we’re featuring a truly German food:  sauerkraut! The recipe this week is Never Enough Pork Beer-Braised Sauerkraut and it is perfect for a hearty, German feast. You might be surprised to find however, that sauerkraut did not originate in Germany or anywhere in Europe. Its roots grow out of the East. Continue reading

Exploring LegacyQuest 2014! Building a 21st Century Soccer Stadium Using Tips From 1st Century Rome

LegacyQuest large logo blue borderThis week’s featured video is from The Baldwin School in Pennsylvania and received an Honorable Mention. Viewers are taken to a modern construction site where the architectural features of the past are shown to inspire the present. The ingenious film was created by middle school students Margaret, Emma (Karly), Charisma and Paige with the help and inspiration of their teacher, Preston Bannard. Continue reading

One Museum’s Quest to Preserve Niger’s Precious Cultural Heritage

Boubou Hama National Museum

Boubou Hama National Museum

Niger does not get a lot of press when it comes to the protection of its cultural heritage. Often it is overshadowed by news about antiquities from its neighbor to the south, Nigeria, and the restitution of the Benin Bronzes taken from that region. However, the people of Niger are proud of their heritage and want to protect and preserve it. One man in particular, Maki Garba from the Boubou Hama National Museum, contacted AntiquityNOW, eager to share the work that’s being done at the museum to ensure that Niger’s past is not lost. Continue reading

Bon Appetit Wednesday! Bacon Pemmican: A Modern Twist on Ancient Native American Jerky

Preparing pemmican.

Preparing pemmican.

Summer road trips are a family tradition this time of year.  But along with the fun comes mile after mile and hour after hour in close quarters. Even experienced travelers can become quite frazzled. That’s why it’s important to pack lots of food and snacks to keep everyone happy. One of the best traveling foods is jerky.  Yes, you heard that right. Full of flavor and nutrition, jerky is easy to pack and won’t spoil in those hot summer temperatures. This year, why not make your own delicious jerky as the Native Americans have done for thousands of years. Pemmican, a dried meat recipe that also sustained the Canadian fur traders in North America, is all natural and has ancient roots, but this recipe gives it a whole new twist by using bacon instead of beef or buffalo. Continue reading