Category Archives: Foraging

Spring is in the Air


I don’t know about anyone else, but sometimes it’s hard for me to get motivated to do much fermentation during the winter. With the longer days, warmer weather, and land turning green again, I have been feeling the urge to get some things brewing.

First Stages of Violet Wine Fermentation

First of all, my yard is covered in lovely violets this time of year. I spent a couple of hours picking some (only about a third. I can’t bear the thought of depriving the bees and butterflies of food) and decided to make violet wine. I didn’t find any real recipes for this, so I’m experimenting. I hope it turns out because I won’t be able to try again for another year.


Next, I made two meads: a plain mead made with local sour wood honey and a vanilla metheglin (mead made with spices) made with local wildflower honey. They should be ready to bottle in another month or two.

Boiling Elderflower Must

Third, I went with my hubby to a conference he attended in Knoxville, where I visited a brew shop. There I picked up a couple of bags of dried elderflowers, as well as some other supplies. I tried a friend’s elderflower wine a few years back and it was one of the most amazing wines I’ve ever tasted! Flavor seemed to burst like little bubbles on my palate (and this wasn’t effervescent, mind you), kind of like tiny drops of sunshine on the tongue. He made his with an elderflower drink he picked up at Ikea. I’ve not been to an Ikea in ages, simply because there’s not one very close to me, so I decided to try to make it from scratch. It was going very well at first, but when I transferred the fermenting must to a carboy the fermentation completely stalled. I tried to rescue it by adding more yeast nutrient and yeast energizer along with mixing in more oxygen. When that didn’t work, I pitched a new package of yeast. Nada. Luckily I have more elderflowers, so I’m going to try again. I have no idea what went wrong.

Finally, I have been begging people to let me come to their yards (if they are not treated with herbicides and pesticides) to pick dandelions for dandelion wine. No one was taking me up on my offer of some minor lawn maintenance, but finally, a friend told me about a city park where there were tons of dandelions. She went with me and we picked about a gallon while racing the park employee on his lawnmower. Again, things went great until I put the wine in its fermentation vessel.

I don’t know what’s going on here, but it’s starting to annoy me. It’s one thing to have to start over with dried flowers I can easily buy, but picking a gallon of dandelions is backbreaking work. It takes a LOT of flower heads to make a gallon. I’ve never had issues with stalled fermentations before, however, my husband’s beer has been stalling ever since we moved into this new place. Perhaps there’s something in the air that is somehow contaminating our brews. We are pretty thorough in our sanitation practices, especially with the beer (it’s much more susceptible to infection than wine or mead), so I don’t know what’s going on. I guess I will start over with the elderflower wine and be super careful, taking note of every step along the way. Fingers crossed!

Meditation on Picking Berries

Earlier this summer I could step outside in my yard back in SC and spend nearly an hour a day foraging for wild blackberries. It seemed that no matter how thoroughly I thought I’d looked at a patch of ground, as soon as I took a couple of steps away and looked back I’d see more ripe berries that I hadn’t seen before. Since these were berry vines that were just growing all over the ground, I had to be totally in the moment as I carefully picked (no pun intended) my way across the various berry patches in order not to step on the berries.

A Change in Perspective Reveals Hidden Treasure
A Change in Perspective Reveals Hidden Treasure

Now that I’ve moved to Chattanooga, TN, I’ve gone berry picking at Crabtree Farms for blackberries and blueberries a few times. Their blackberry vines are huge, cultivated giants compared to the wild berries back in SC. Since they opened the picking up to the public, I often would be surrounded by other folks. I think it is interesting that I could come along behind many other people and still be able to find perfectly good berries to pick. Of course, many of those were outside the normal line of sight. I often reached through to the other side of the fence that supports the vines to find beautiful berries untouched. Likewise, by changing my perspective and looking up from below where the vines are thickest I was able to find handfuls of gorgeous berries.

I can’t help but think that we should often change our perspective in order to find the amazing things others have overlooked. And I hope to bring the mindfulness I found in picking berries to other parts of my life.