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May Day Foods

May Wine is served on May Day. In Germany, May Wine is the quintessential summer drink. It is usually flavored with Sweet Woodruff (Waldmeister or Maikraut), perhaps because it improves the taste of thin, new wine. May wine is also the name for any wine punch flavored with herbs, fruits, berries and occasionally flowers.

To make May wine, pick sweet woodruff that does not have open blossoms the day before you want to serve the wine. The herb has more flavor when slightly dry. Tie the stems of a bunch with cotton thread and hang it in a bottle of wine so the leaves are covered. After ten or fifteen minutes, remove the woodruff. I have seen other recipes for May Wine that tell you to leave the woodruff in the wine for days, even weeks. However, woodruff contains coumarin, a substance similar to coumadin which is prescribed to thin blood for people suffering from clots. Also too much can cause a headache, so it is best to use only enough to flavor the wine. Woodruff can also be used in the same way to flavor milk or apple juice. The traditional Mai Bowle also has strawberries in it.

The Seven Virtues

In Abruzzo, a special minestrone called le sette virtu is made on May Day from all the leftovers in the larder. It contains seven kinds of leftover dried pasta, seven kinds of dried beans, stock made from seven types of preserved leftovers of pig (such as the feet), seven kinds of fresh vegetables (including artichokes, fennel and fava beans) and seven fresh herbs. In Fruili and Piedmont, the dish to eat on May 1st is frittatta primaverile verde alle sette erbe, a fritatta flavored with sage, parsley, thyme, basil, mint, marjoram and a bitter herb known as amarella. This must be a very old tradition for on Nawruz, Persian New Year, which coincides with the spring equinox, Iranians serve seven dishes which start with S. This is also the time when Kabbalists spend seven weeks studying the seven attributes of God represented in the Kabbalah. reate your own tradition of a meal based on the number seven.

Field, Carol, Celebrating Italy, Morrow and Company 1990
Kowalchik, Claire and William H Hylton, editors, Rodale's Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs, Rodale Press 1987

Sweet Woodruff
Sweet Woodruff

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