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Dandelion Wine Offers Flavors of Spring and Medicinal Benefits

For centuries, dandelions have been prized for their medicinal qualities, often consumed in the form of dandelion wine or tea to aid in digestion. In New England, there’s a long tradition of drinking dandelion wine as an early-spring medicinal tonic. But until recently, any beverages made with dandelions weren’t all that enjoyable to drink.

Every year during the flower’s peak bloom, usually in April or May, Raphael Lyon of Enlightenment Wines Meadery assembles a team that travels from the Brooklyn meadery to a farm in the Hudson Valley, where they pluck fresh dandelions from the ground. Since 2009, he’s made Memento Mori, a dandelion mead that combines wildflower honey, orange peel and fresh dandelion flowers, which bring dry, bitter notes to the beverage.

But Lyon cares about more than just how the flowers taste. “You’re not just flavoring the wine,” he says. “More importantly, you’re preserving the dandelion.” And with them, their benefits as a digestif.

In nearby Hudson, New York, Nika Carlson, owner of Greenpoint Cidery, is also on the lookout for the bright blossoms. “I will literally just crawl around the lawn around the cidery and pick dandelions. It’s a really nice, meditative start to the year,” she says. Carlson then infuses the flower heads in cider for two months to make the yellow-hued Days of Heaven.

While the flowers might be the most eye-catching aspect of the plant, other parts of it can be used during the beverage-making process, too. Danny Childs, bar manager at the Farm and Fisherman Tavern in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, says dandelion roots and greens are great additions to house-made amaros. He also makes wine and mead with the flowers.

Childs, who has a background in botany, appreciates the ease of being able to step out into his own backyard to find ingredients for his dandelion concoctions. “It’s kind of nice to go foraging for dandelions,” says Childs. “You don’t have to go far.”