Tales from

the Loir

A Weekly Column

March 28, 2001 - Pissenlit

Some people call me the space cowboy, yeah
Some call me the gangster of love
Some people call me Maurice
The Joker by Miller/Ertegun/Curtis

Maurice is a walking encyclopedia of everything you would ever want to know about country traditions in the Loir et Cher. When I saw him with a basket picking mauvaises herbs (weeds), I asked what he was doing. As it turns out, he was not picking but havesting weeds, or at least one weed in particular. He was gathering pissenlit to make salad. Pissenlits are what we call dandelions in the States. During the months of February and the early part of March the young tender shoots are used to make salad with vinaigrette, garlic, croutons, cheese and hard boiled eggs. By the end of March the leaves are too hard and bitter to be used as salad but the dandelions sprout again in the early fall and can again be harvested. Some people cook the leaves as a replacement for spinach or use the young flower buds to replace asparagus points. Pissenlit is also called dent-de-lion, couronne de moine, and salade de taupe. Dent-de-lion (lion's tooth) is probably the source of our word dandelion. It is easily recognized by its bright yellow flowers.

Pissenlit is a diuretic and has been prized for its medicinal assets for hundred of years. It is supposed to reduce blood pressure, eliminate excess body fluids, and dissolve gall stones among other things. It was once customary to make wine from dandelions. I have not seen this done yet, but Maurice may yet lead me to find this tradition. Here is my translation of a recipe for dandelion wine that I found on the internet.

Vin de Pissenlit
Plantes sauvages médicinales, Anny Schneider, Editions de l'Homme, 1999.

4 liters of boiling water
4 liters of fresh dandelion flowers
1 zest of orange
1 zest of lemon
1.75 kg of sugar
A large piece of ginger root (about 4 cm)
1 soup spoon of beer yeast
1 small slice of bread.

1 Pour boiling water on the flowers (preferably in a bowl) and allow to soak for 3 days while covered. Stir from time to time.
2 Filter the liquid and boil it for 30 minutes while adding the sugar, the zests and small pieces of the ginger.
3 After the liquid cools, put it in a large jar.
4 Spread the yeast on the bread and put it on top of the liquid.
Cover the jar and allow it to ferment.
5 When the wine stops foaming, put it in a sealed barrel (California oak will do) and wait 3 months before putting in bottles.

It is an aperitif that cleanses and heals. The only caution given is for people with problems involving the kidneys, heart, bladder or the intestines. That probably includes most humans but maybe your mother-in-law would like a bottle.

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March 21, 2001 - The Egg
March 14, 2001 - Reliquary
March 7, 2001 - The Source of the Loir
February 28, 2001 - La Marseillaise
February 21, 2001 - Still on Wheels
February 14, 2001 - Marcel Proust
February 7, 2001 - La Chandeleur
January 31, 2001 - Winter Comfort Food
January 24, 2001 - Festival of Saint Vincent
January 17, 2001 - Guest Columnist Aprille Glover
January 10, 2001 - Muscadet
January 3, 2001 - Ode to Protein
December 27, 2000 - Summer Dreaming: Escargot
December 20, 2000 - Let Them Eat Cake
December, 13 2000 - Back to France
November 29, 2000 -Beignets Aux Fleurs d'Acacia
November 15, - Thanksgiving
November 8, - Pousse D'Epine
November 1, 2000 - Col de Vence: A day on the Moon
October 25, 2000 - Cult of the Black Virgin
October 18, 2000 - Harvesting Grapes by Hand
October 4, 2000 - Provence: All Good Things



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