Dandelions: wine and tyres

dandelionsTraditional picked on St. George's Day, the flower petals of the dandelion can be brewed into a country wine. It turns out that its leaves can also be eaten as a salad leaf and its horrendously long tap roots that seem to grow down as far Australia make a passable coffee substitute: but now the humble dandelion has another use – it can be turned into car tyres.

That milky-white substance that oozes onto your fingers whenever you break the stem or root of this useful plant/weed (delete as appropriate) is actually latex. And German tyre maker Continental is about to turn its research project into a facility that makes dandelion rubber by the ton.

"We have built up a great deal of expertise in the field of dandelion cultivation in recent years.” explains project manager Professor Dirk Prüfer, “This enables us to grow particularly high-yield plants much more efficiently.” Okay, so what the good Professor is saying is they’ve developed a super-duper dandelion with massive roots – the gardening wine-lovers among you may want to have a small cry now.

hydrometer readingBut let’s try and be positive. You may not (as yet) have enough dandelions to turn your garden into a profitable rubber plantation (you’ll need the Russian variety, or Kazakh dandelion, to be sure of optimum production) but you’ve probably got enough to make dandelion coffee (dry roast the de-mudded roots in a low oven at 130C for a couple of hours then grind and steep in boiling water as usual) or use the petals to make an old-fashioned country wine.

No part of the calyx (the green bit below the petals) should enter your initial steeping mixture of boiling water, so use scissors to cut off the petals while remembering why you wanted to go to all the effort of making this in the first place – because you can’t buy this barley-sugar tasting wine and it’s fun anyway (delete as appropriate).

Strain the petals out of the soaking liquid after a couple of days and throw these away (or compost them) and add sugar, raisins, lemon juice and wine yeast into the remaining liquid. Leave to ferment for a few more days and then transfer the whole lot (strained) into a demijohn.

Drink when ready.

PG Wine Reviews

Sainsbury's House MalbecSainsbury's Chilean House Malbec

£4.60 Sainsbury's

Sainsbury's own-label range uses the term 'House' to refer to the everyday value wines you'd get at a restaurant. At £4.60 this is about half the price seen on a wine list and about half as exciting. It's simple and light bodied with flavours of plums and a bit of wood.

Craigmoor Estate Australian Chardonnay 2015

£6.99 Co-op

Flavours of creamy melon and peach icecream.

Sainsbury's Taste the Difference French Côtes du Rhone Villages 2014

£7 Sainsbury's

Spend £2.40 more and the flavour moves up several slots from the previous House wine. This one is really very good and tastes of black cherry, damson and marzipan.

Chapel Down English roseChapel Down English Rosé 2015

£10 Sainsbury's, £10.99 Ocado

A light rosé made in the Kentish vineyards of Chapel Down. Flavours of strawberry sauce.

This article also appeared as Paula's Wines of the Week on MatureTimes.co.uk