Happy Hallowe’en! To celebrate Samhain, I am sharing the recipe I use to make Mangelwurzel Wine, which may seem strange on a day we associate more with pumpkin recipes. Did you know that mangelwurzels were used to make lanterns in parts of the UK long before pumpkins became the tradition?
Mangelwurzels (Beta vulgaris) are also known as mangolds and field beet (grown as animal fodder) but I much prefer the old west country name for them. In South Somerset, mangelwurzels were carved for Punkie night, which pre-dates punk rock by about 100 years (!), celebrated on the last Thursday of October. Children would walk the streets after dark with their illuminated lanterns singing the Punkie Song:
It’s Punkie Night tonight!
It’s Punkie Night tonight!
Adam and Eve would not believe
It’s Punkie Night tonight!
Give me a candle
Give me a light
If you haven’t got a candle
A penny’s alright!
In other parts of the UK, swedes and turnips were carved. I remember carving them as a child in Yorkshire, they are really tough! Pumpkins and squash are so much easier to carve, so it’s easy to see why they are popular at Hallowe’en now.
More mangelwurzel trivia!
Did you know that one of Wurzel Gummidge’s heads was made from a mangelwurzel?
And that the west country group The Wurzels got their name from this large root vegetable?
Both the root and leaves are edible, the leaves I think are tastier than chard, and the root part can be cooked and used like swede or beetroot. I mainly grow them for the golden coloured root which makes an excellent country wine. Golden and delicious, it is a rather potent brew which can make you feel ‘mangelwurzelled” – a word we made up one rather boozy evening some years ago 🙂
How to grow mangelwurzels
Mangelwurzels are easy to grow. Sow in April or May into modules, one seed per module, and plant out when sturdy transplants. You can direct sow but this way they survive slug attacks more readily. You may need to protect them from birds – in Somerset I had to cover them with enviromesh until well established otherwise teams of sparrows would devour the leaves, but here in Wales they are not as much of a problem.
Leave to grow – you can remove the odd leaf to cook with, as you would chard, but leave enough for the plant to photosynthesise – and harvest from late October onwards. If there is an extended period of dry weather, the mangelwurzels will appreciate some water. They will survive some frost. To store, cut the leaves off and use as spinach, chard or beetroot leaves, and keep the roots in a cool, dark frost free place until needed.
I’ll be making the wine in a week or so. The reason I am waiting is because my induction hob has died (what rubbish timing, right in the middle of peak harvesting and preserving time!) and I am waiting for the part so it can be repaired. The wine in the photo below is actually gooseberry, but the colour is much the same!
Mangelwurzel wine recipe
1800g/4 lb mangelwurzel root, washed and sliced into 2.5cm/1″ pieces. No need to peel.
1800g/4lb granulated sugar
10cm/4″ piece of ginger root, sliced thinly
2 lemons and 1 orange – thinly peeled rinds* and juice
4.5 litres/ 1 gallon water
* if not using organic citrus fruit, scrub it well first to remove wax etc
a large pan
demi john and fermentation lock
wine bottles and corks, labels
Place the mangelwurzel slices and citrus peels in the large pan and pour over the water. Bring to the boil and simmer until tender.
Pour the sugar into the fermentation bucket and activate the yeast (if necessary). Strain the contents of the pan carefully over the sugar and add the citrus juices.
Stir until the sugar has dissolved and leave until lukewarm. Then add the yeast.
Stir and cover. Leave for 24 hours in a warm place.
Transfer to a sterilised demi john, insert the air lock and leave somewhere warm for 2-3 months, to ferment. When fermentation has ceased, siphon off into clean, sterilised bottles, cork and label.
Store for at least a year, preferably two, before drinking.
(As with all country wines, drink in moderation!)
This recipe is taken from an old wine making book compiled by Dorothy Wise, first published in 1955. My copy was published in 1976 and is very well used!
I’ve also published it in No Dig Organic Home and Garden, pub 2017, which I co-wrote with Charles Dowding (we both wrote the gardening parts, you wouldn’t believe how many people still think I “just” wrote the recipes….!) and wrote about mangelwurzels previously in this blog in 2016.
To buy seeds, use “mangold” to search for suppliers. The variety I grow is Yellow Eckendorf.
11 thoughts on “Mangelwurzel wine recipe”
I remember in Cumberland carving Swedes or Turnips for Halloween and boy dies burnt turnip stink from the candle.
the spooky smell of burnt turnips!
Cannot imagine trying to carve a mangelwurzel into a jack o’lantern; must need the hands and arms of a granite sculptor ( and many spare fingers). We’ve grown a few Swedes this year and may well have a go at winemaking, though.
Need a chisel most likely! Turnips and swedes are tougher though, I think
Where do you get the seeds from please?
I got mine from Kings Seeds
What a great name! … what does the wine taste like? … asking for a friend. 😀
Strong, fruity, sweet and delicious
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