Summer Herb Feature: Grindelia integrifolia, Puget Sound Gumweed
Resinated wine, or retsina in the Greece, is an ancient human tradition: “Excavation of the Neolithic site at Hajji Firuz Tepe in the Zagros Mountains has uncovered jars dating from 5400–5000 BC that contain wine residue as well as deposits of resin, identified as from the terebinth tree (Pistacia terebinthus) that grew wild in the area.” (“Retsina” www.wikipedia.com) It has been part of Greek culture for 2000 years, when winemakers would seal wine vessels with Aleppo pine resin to preserve the wine. Using these local gumweed buds, which are filled with white, glistening puddles of resin from the summer through early fall, Ryan Drum inspired a Pacific Northwest version of retsina, which I now enjoy as a summer infused wine. In the sunflower family, Grindelia grows on steep shoreline bluffs here and is a mild sedative, cardiac relaxant, and digestive bitters. Strongly antiseptic, the Grindelia resin is protective and antifungal for the plant and works that way as a medicine. It is a great healer of bronchial ailments as a soothing expectorant that soothes the mucosa of the passageways into the stomach and lungs. An antispasmodic specifically for dry, hacking coughs as well, Grindelia bud tincture was the main factor in helping me through such a cough that lingered after a cold. (Not much else was able to soothe my scratchy throat and subdue some of the coughing!) Grindelia is also a medicine of the urinary tract and can be used to heal bladder and urethra infections, and it’s a great skin healer, known to work on poison ivy and oak rashes in tincture or fresh bud poultice form: “stimulating epithelial regeneration, increasing surface blood supply with its rubifacient oils, its flavones limiting unwanted inflammation, and in general possessing some rather efficient antimicrobial activity.” (Michael Moore, Medicinal Plants of the Mountain West)
After several years of having limited success with herb preparations that use wine as a medium of extraction, such as Grindelia retsina, I was experimenting with an herb-infused home vermouth and figured out the secret: as with all transitory things in this world, there is a brief window of time to enjoy an herbal wine preparation. With pasteurization of modern wines, they will often go bad and sour quickly after opening the bottle and using it to steep herbs. They are also not shelf stable without the addition of significant amounts of higher-proof alcohol, making the preparation more like a tincture. By gently cooking the herbs in the wine for a few hours, and then allowing to steep a bit longer (as in the recipe below), you end up with a great fusion of the wine and herbs without the detrimental flavoring of a soured wine.
1, 750ml bottle medium dry white wine. Jean Marc Brocard Kimmeridgien Chardonnay (currently sold at Orcas Food Co-op) worked well for me recently.
Wild Roots northwest pear-infused vodka
1/4# fresh Grindelia buds
Grindelia buds should be harvested before opening, when they are filled with puddles of white resin (they will keep 1-2 days stored in a cool, dark place). The entire plant contains resin, so the leaves may be used in the off season to make medicine or retsina.
Add entire bottle of white wine, fresh Grindelia buds, 1.5-2 cups pear-infused vodka, and 1 tsp vanilla extract to a crock pot.
Maintain heat at lowest setting fro 2-3 hours.
Turn off heat and let steep another 4-6 hours.
Strain Grindelia buds and enjoy right away or chill for enjoyment later that evening. Add more pear vodka as needed. Best drunk day of, but will also maintain a good flavor profile in the fridge for 1-2 weeks.
Cheers, to enjoying the moment!