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
- Identify a patch of true dandelions (mistaking them for flatweed or hawksbeard will put you off ever wanting to drink this coffee again).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
For more information contact Patrick at firstname.lastname@example.org 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