Dandelions are a common flower, typically considered a weed, whose roots can actually be made into a herbal tea that is not unlike coffee. The roots of the common dandelion (taraxacum officionale) are dried, ground and then cooked. The cooked roots can then be steeped like any other tea – in boiling water – to produce a bitter but flavorful drink called “dandelion coffee” or “dandelion tea.” As dandelion species are common in temperate zones throughout the world, dandelion has quite the history as a herbal medicine, used in Europe, China and North America.
Dandelion tea can be purchased loose or in bags, just like other teas. It should be steeped in boiling water for longer than usual - from 10 to 15 minutes. Use one levelled tablespoon per cup of water. If you’ve got whole dandelion, note that the leaves can also be used in salads in the same way as endives, or boiled to remove bitterness and used as a normal salad green.
Dandelion tea is often promoted as a tonic for the digestive system and for the liver. There have not been many high-quality in vivo studies conducted on dandelion, but it is known to be a diuretic (and thus care should be taken not to drink too much) and a very mild laxative.
Dandelion tea is noted for having a bitter, nutty aroma, not unlike coffee. Of course, that’s just a comparison: dandelions have their own unique flavor. The cooking of the root does impart a nice toasty flavor that further invites comparisons with coffee.
In Chinese Traditional Medicine, use of dandelion root dates back to the year 659 and likely earlier. Although it may have been described by Pliny the Elder, its use in Europe did not become common until the second millenium A.D. It was widely used as a curative for all manner of ailments, and its utility both as a medicine and as a vegetable and coffee substitute caused European settlers to bring dandelion to North America. Its use became quite popular among Native Americans, and it was written about extensively in the 19th century. Unfortunately, it is considered a weed by most.
Growing dandelions is incredibly easy. Ideally, they should be placed in full sun in quality, well-drained soil, but will grow nearly anywhere. In fact, if you just walk around outside you’ll be likely to spot some dandelions. While it may seem odd to grow what is largely considered a “weed”, growing dandelions in high-quality soil can help reduce the bitterness of the final product.
A comprehensive guide to harvesting and roasting your own dandelion. Wow!
Dandelion can be a bit bitter and plain on its own. Instead of going straight for cream and sugar, try adding some spices.
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