Spotted Knapweed Wine?

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D the Catastrophist

Well-Known Member
Jun 24, 2022
Reaction score
W. Michigan
So, looking around the fields here at what is in bloom got me thinking-has anyone tried making a wine out of spotted knapweed? I know it is technically classified as an invasive plant, but it is also used to produce star thistle honey here in Michigan and many beekeepers actually oppose its eradication.

I couldn't find any recipes for knapweed, but Jack Keller did have a stinging nettle wine recipe made using the whole nettle head. I think I would probably treat it like a dandelion wine. Harvesting just the purple petals, and using a recipe similar to the one below:

~290 grams petals.
1 gallon water.
Zest and juice of 1 orange.
Zest and juice of 1 lemon.
1 cup strong Earl Grey tea.
2 lb sugar.
Yeast nutrient.
I'm going for it. Gathered about a third of a gallon zip lock full this morning. After plucking netted 85 grams. Plenty more to harvest. It's amazing how long it takes to harvest and prep flower petals for wine. Though this is much easier compared to prepping dandelions....

Most sources online say it is noxious- can be harmful to wildlife and cause skin irritation in humans. No reference to human consumption but it apparently produces a compound that is toxic to other plants.
In other words, not sure it is safe to use in making wine. If you continue, good luck and please report back your results.
I will be researching this more but I have seem a couple articles claiming the flowers are edible and can be added to salads. Seems that it is the roots and stems that are potentially toxic and bitter.
I do know Knapweed is one of the ingredients in Cynar(a bitter liqueur), but as there are dozens of different knapweeds.....
Trying to identify accurate info using common names is annoying and many places don't use the scientific name.
Worse case scenario is my harvesting reduced the number of plants in my field so not exactly a huge loss.
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I did a little research on them when you first posted. From what I read, also, the flowers are ok, and even considered medicinal and edible. The stems and roots are somewhat toxic, and hold carcinogens, so if it were me (which it's not, granted), I'd give them a pass. If you decide to run with it, though, good luck and happy winemaking.
If the flowers are edible why wouldn't you make a wine from them?

Not trying to be argumentative but we already eat or make wines from things that have either part of the plant that is toxic(elderberries, rhubarb) or that too large a quantity has adverse effects(chicory, nutmeg), or if not cooked long enough(kidney beans). Some mango skins and leaves contain urushiol, the same stuff in poison ivy that makes you itch.

Food is weird/fascinating that way. Some cultures eat things that others wouldn't touch.
Call it an overabundance of caution, if you want a term for it. Just because people eat chocolate-covered cockroaches doesn't mean I'll be out there crunching side by side with them... As I mentioned, it looks like they have been used medicinally and even in foods, but so has strychnine.
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Many plants have both edible and toxic parts. We eat tomatoes and potatoes, but the leaves of both plants are toxic. The leaves of plums, cherries, and peaches are also toxic. Apple seeds are toxic if you eat too many. More info here: Edible Plants With Poisonous Habits - Laidback Gardener I'm not giving up on eating tomatoes, potatoes, cherries, plums, and peaches!

You need to know how to correctly identify the plant, and which portion are safe to eat.