It's a pretty incredible thing that we have such easy access to so many foods from around the Earth. We can pick up tropical fruits in our local shops, cook with a huge variation of spices and generally find inspiration from cuisines all around the world. It's a huge privilege, but we often fail to see the abundance of life growing on our home land...maybe even in our own back garden.
As we begin to learn more about medicinal herbs & foraging, we're discovering so much about what's growing in the UK and how we can appreciate these incredible wild plants. And with Mama Earth in her current state, we could all do with eating a little more locally & seasonally, as well as healing ourselves in more natural ways...
Dandelions are so abundant in the UK that most gardeners are trying to work out how to get rid of them rather than harvesting their goodness. They're a persistent plant, but their sunny yellow flowers can brighten up the dullest of November days. They're also treasured in the world of herbalism, with the root, flower and leaf all having different benefits and uses.
The root is particularly beneficial in helping cleanse and purify the liver - something a lot of people need assisting with this time of year. As Christmas approaches & people begin to overindulge and drink more alcohol, the liver can become congested, causing one to feel sluggish and tired. Incorporating natural liver cleansers into our daily routine can be a game changer for this! Dandelion also contains a lot of calcium, iron, potassium & vitamins A, B & C, as well stimulating the digestive system and helping skin problems. It's basically an everyday superfood - and it's free to forage too!
If you're trying to cut down on caffeine intake or just want to try a different, satisfying hot drink, then dandelion root is an amazing alternative to coffee. And it's a fun project foraging, drying & preparing your roots! Roasting the roots brings out a really incredible & unique flavour - somewhat caramel, somewhat earthy. And it's even better made into an uplifting spiced drink or mocha during these colder months of the year.
Picking your Dandelion
As with any foraging or wildcrafting, be mindful about where you are harvesting & how much you are taking. Take only what you need and leave enough for the local wildlife.
You'll have to dig a little to pick your dandelion, so best not to dig on private land or in your neighbours prized front garden! If you're lucky enough to have a garden, it's very likely that you'll have some dandelions growing in it, so that's the best place to start. If you can avoid picking near busy roadsides or driveways then it's much better too, as plants here will be effected by pollution.
Preparing the Dandelions
1) The Leaves - To make the dandelion coffee, you'll only need to use the root of the plant. But the green leaves are full of nutrition and goodness, so we reccommend saving these to try! They do have a slightly bitter flavour, but we throw ours in a juice/smoothie. In the Mediterranean they are sauteed with lemon and olive oil.
2) Wash the Roots - Once you've gathered your roots, you'll need to thoroughly wash them. We leave ours in a bowl of warm water for a while, and then scrub them with a cloth to remove all the dirt.
3) Chop! - One washed, you can chop your roots into very small pieces and place them on a lined baking tray.
4) Dry & Roast - If you live somewhere hot, you can then dry them in the sun for a few hours before roasting in the oven. Because we live in the UK and it's currently freezing cold, we dry & roast ours in the oven on a low heat for roughly 4 hours (checking them every so often). Once ready, the roots will be dark in colour and completely dry. They should have a fragrant smell too.
5) Cool & Grind - Allow your roots to cool after you remove them from the oven. Place them in a clean spice or coffee grinder and whiz them into a fine powder. You're now ready to use your Dandelion coffee! Store in an airtight jar (where they should last for a long time)
6)To Prepare your drink - To use your powder, there are a few options ...
* Place a heaped tablespoon of powder into water and bring to the boil for a few minutes. Drain and serve ... tastes best with added nut milk and a pinch of coconut sugar.
* Use the powder in a mocha pot, as you would to make espresso
* Use a french press to infuse the roots in water for around 10 minutes.
Next week we'll be posting our favourite recipe for Dandelion root, making a medicinal hot chocolate with delicious spices!
After Roasting :