Dandelions

I have been dealing with dandelions lately.  Of course, in my case, this does not involve a man in a truck spraying chemicals on my yard.  I have been turning over the garden beds and as I do, I dig up the dandelions, roots and all.

Years ago, as I was working in the garden in the early spring, a friend stopped by.  She remarked on the lovely, big dandelion plants that I was tossing into the compost pile. “Aren’t you going to make tea?”

I had heard of a coffee substitute from roasted dandelion roots, but not tea.  She gave me a recipe for Power to the People Tea and it is one of my favorites.  Like many activities connected to simple living, it is time-intensive, but very tasty and good for you.  All summer long, I gather the ingredients, dry them, and then come winter we have a lovely brew that is completely home-grown.

One of the things I love about dandelions, aside from the fact that they are beautiful and cheerful, is that you can use all parts of the plant.  The roots can be roasted (see instructions below) and ground up and brewed, while the leaves are tasty in stir fries, and the blossoms can be battered and fried or used for dandelion wine (which I have never liked).

CAUTION:  Make sure you know that the area from which you are gathering any wild food has not been sprayed with chemicals!  I get things from my own yard and I know there are no chemical residues here, but if you are thinking of gathering from a public park or someone else’s yard, you don’t know if that area has been sprayed. Better safe than sorry!  Watch the area for a bit before picking anything there.  Vacant lots are usually a safe choice.  No one cares if weeds grow there.

Preparing dandelion roots

Power to the People Tea

Recipe from Ellen Benek via Linda Frey

This tea can contain whatever you like best, but Linda recommens leaves from alfalfa, red clover, nettles, oat straw, and raspberry, blackberry or strawberry leaves.  You can also add mint, oswego, verbena, or lemon balm according to your taste.  Dry the leaves.  Mix in rosehips, dandelion roots, and dock root.

Roots need to be dried, chopped, roasted before you can use them.  After you dig up the roots, remove the greens (I usually eat them), and give the roots a couple of good soaks in cold water and a really good scurbbing.  Remove the small side roots and then chop the tap roots into half inch pieces.  Arrange on a baking sheet and bake at 200 deg. F for about 30 minutes.  Let cool and then grind in a coffee grinder.  I am always on the lookout for these at thrift stores.  I use them for spices, incense ingredients, and natural dye materials, so I need several (don’t use the same grinder for edibles and non-edibles).

Mix the dried leaves and roots and store in a jar in a cool, dark place.  Use a tablespoon per cup.  This makes great sun tea, too.

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