dandelionsIts flower petals can be turned into a country wine, its leaves can 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.

wheels"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.

But 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.

dandelion seed headNo 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).

airlockStrain 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

If you haven’t got time to make the amber-coloured nectar then why not purchase another sort of dandelion wine from the Australian vineyards of the same name:

Dandelion Vineyards Lion’s Tooth of McLaren Vale Shiraz Riesling 2008

£147 per 12 bottle case (equivalent to £12.25 per bottle) Tesco Wine by the Case

A fruity soft red with the added complexity of rose petal aromas provided by the Riesling in the blend.

For a greater range of Dandelion Vineyards wines try The Fine Wine Company

Many independent wine merchants stock one or two wines from the Dandelion Vineyards range.

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