Eat Your Weeds: Dandelion

dandellion
Photo by Patrick Jones

Botanical name: Taraxacum officinale

Parts used: flowers, stems, leaves and roots

Description: a rosette of rough-toothed leaves from a single taproot. A ‘true dandelion’ produces yellow flowers each of which sit on a single hollow stem, and that helps to identify it from lookalikes hawksbeard (Crepis species) and flatweed or catsear (Hypochaeris species), which have multiple flowers shooting from solid stems.

Nutrients: vitamins – A, B6, E, K, thiamine; antioxidants; flavonoids; alpha- and beta-carotene; minerals – high in iron and calcium, and contains magnesium, manganese, potassium, copper, choline and boron.

Maligned by industrial agriculture, dandelion is a widespread weed much loved as a medicine plant, and can also be enjoyed as food and coffee. All parts of this old, bitter, well-travelled, temperate-climate commoner can be used: young tender leaves and stems can be cooked or included raw in salads; roots can be cooked as a vegetable; flowers can produce a delicious summer wine; petals brighten a salad; all parts can be juiced (need to balance bitterness with sweeter things). The roots can be roasted and ground into granules to produce a non-caffeinated coffee substitute (see recipe). A root tea (dried, not roasted) can be brewed to help with weight loss, rejuvenation and detoxification – of liver, kidney and skin – and is now reported to fight a spectrum of cancer producing cells.

HOW TO MAKE DANDELION COFFEE

  1. Identify a patch of true dandelions (mistaking them for flatweed or hawksbeard will put you off ever wanting to drink this coffee again).
  2. Dig up as many taproots as you think you can fit in your oven. You can also use a Dutch oven on a small fire, or a solar cooker.
  3. Wash roots with cold water and a scrubbing brush to remove dirt. Rinse and chop into small even pieces – you want the surface area of each ‘chip’ to be roughly the same so that they roast evenly. Dry them in a sunny spot or dehydrator to remove excess water.
  4. Spread chips onto a tray and put them into an oven preheated to 170˚ C. Roast until you smell a baked cookie aroma, and then for another ten minutes. Roasting usually takes between fortyfive minutes and one hour, depending on your oven/apparatus. Be careful not to turn the chips into charcoal.
  5. Cool the chips and then grind them into granules using a mortar and pestle or coffee grinder. Store granules in an airtight container.

To prepare dandelion coffee to drink, add two generous teaspoons for each person to a stovetop, plunger, pot or other coffee making device. Add the milk of your choice and/or garden- produced honey to taste.

There you have it – a locavore’s coffee.

Enjoy!

For more information contact Patrick at permapoesis@gmail.com or book into one of his foraging walks in Daylesford, Victoria (see advertisement). For Patrick’s dandelion coffee manifesto go to www.vimeo.com/52577459

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