Yes, parsley wine! As more and more of us turn to the land, growing our own and foraging in hedgerows, many are dusting down brewing paraphernalia that’s been buried in attics and the back of sheds and they’re making their own wine and beers.
I still remember as a child, watching my Dad straining grapes and siphoning different liquids through muslin as he made his own wine. Unfortunately I was never allowed to try it so to this day have no idea if his methods were successful. Perhaps that’s why, when we found ourselves with an abundance of Italian flat leafed parsley growing in the polytunnel, we turned to the old wine making recipes (well there’s only so much sauce one can eat)…
As a result of trialing different compost we had an abundance of Italian flat leafed parsley seedlings littered around our house and I was left scratching my head wondering what to do with them.
Eventually the polytunnel went up and suddenly there were lots of empty beds just waiting to be planted. At last, a home for my little plants. I placed them amongst the marigolds and tomatoes and left them to it. Within about a month they’d quadrupled in size and we realised very quickly that one would have been enough to feed our family, never mind twenty! So, at the end of July, we unearthed, washed and sterilised the demijohns and went harvesting. I picked just over 1.1 kg (2 ½ lbs) of leaves and stems and used the following method to make the wine (I know that sounds a lot but with just a couple of productive plants it’s easy to collect):
- Strain into a large pan (I had to do this in two batches) and add the fresh root ginger, rinds of the oranges and lemons and boil for 20 minutes.
- Put the caster sugar into the brewing bucket and pour the liquor on top, stirring until it has dissolved. Add the juice of the oranges and lemons.
- Leave it to cool then add some wine yeast (this was tricky to buy and in fact we couldn’t find wine yeast as such so had to settle for a general yeast that claimed to be suitable for home brewing. We’ve since found a home brewing website for our next efforts). Leave in the bucket for two weeks and cover until the mad fermentation process has died down.
- Strain the liquor into demijohns (I used two for this quantity), fit with airlocks and place in the hot press for nine months. Bottle then store for another three before sampling.
I’d been collecting wine bottles with screw cap lids in readiness so washed and sterilised ten ready for the brew, which was siphoned in to them.
Initial tasting was sweet but hopeful – it tasted like wine and was crystal clear at any rate!
After the recommended waiting period (yes we really did manage to wait), we popped the first bottle. It was surprisingly drinkable! Very sweet as mentioned with a definite gingery flavour and quite strong too. We never did check the gravity (its % of alcohol) but it never failed to bring a smile or two after a glass.
Have you ever made wine from your garden produce or hedgerows? I’m on the lookout now for favourites as we’ve since been trawling through the old books to see what we can grow and brew next…
How to Grow Parsley
If you find yourself with a packet of parsley seeds it might be useful to know how to sow them… Don’t worry if you don’t have a large garden either as parsley grows well in containers as long as you remember to water the plants in hot weather.
Parsley needs warm temperatures to germinate (burst their seed shell and start to grow) so is best started off in newspaper pots or seed modules indoors around March time. Sow three or four seeds in each pot or module that you’ve added multipurpose or seedling compost to and have dampened (not swamped) with tap water. The seeds are tiny so need light to germinate. Make sure you don’t bury the seeds too deeply but just barely cover them with a layer of compost. Place the pots in a warm, bright windowsill and wait. If the compost looks dry, dampen carefully. Don’t worry if you see nothing happening for a while, parsley can take up to a month to germinate! Once the seedlings have grown, remove the weakest leaving one strong plant in each pot to develop.
Around June or July as temperatures have increased, the plants should be ready to go outside. You’ll need to acclimatise them first by bringing them back indoors at night for a few days (known as hardening off). After that it’s safe to transplant your seedlings into the soil. Make sure lots of well-rotted manure or compost has been added to the soil they’ll be growing in before you transplant them. If you’ve grown them in newspaper pots you can bury the pots, which will cause very little root disturbance. If not, be gentle with the roots as you remove them from the modules as they don’t really like to be disturbed.
Having said all that, if you’re not in a hurry for it, you can sow some seeds directly into fertile soil around July time, covering lightly and wait and see what happens. You wont be able to harvest the leaves perhaps until the following year using this method, but it’s far less fiddly if you’re new to gardening!
Good luck and give me a shout if you have any questions.