Dandelion (Taraxacum Officinale) is easily recognisable from it’s serrated bright green leaves, vibrant yellow flowers and “puffball” seed heads. In Australia it’s usually referred to as a weed, sprayed with poison and/or pulled out. As soon as you start looking, you’ll notice it’s pretty much everywhere.
However, did you know that you can use the flowers to make dandelion wine, the greens in salads and the roots – well the roots can be turned into a scrumptious tea/coffee substitute. It also boasts a decent list of medicinal qualities.
Dandelion takes no effort to grow and will thrive between pavement cracks, compacted gravel, roadsides and pathways. It is also obscenely nutritious, much more so than any of the more common vegetables we cultivate so carefully in our veggie garden.
Fostering our ‘weeds’ is actually one of the more clever things we can do in our gardens. When we first moved into our Hobart home we were stoked to see that the ‘weeds’ we were to inherit included the likes of yarrow, plantain, dock and dandelion – awesome.
This plant has a few nicknames including blow-ball referring to the seed heads, priest’s crown for the stem after the seeds have flown, and swine’s snout (my favourite) for the unopened flower. The word ‘dandelion’ is derived from the French word, dent de lion, meaning ‘teeth of the lion’ – a reference to the pointy teeth shaped leaves.
Image from News Discovery
FYI, I took a a lot of photos when making our dandelion coffee of which 99% turned out truly badly – I seemed to have forgotten how to take a photo in focus. So I’ve drawn on some clever photo people to fill in the gaps (and referenced them all super clearly). All photos that aren’t referenced are mine… all mine.
If you can, wait until it’s rained or give your garden a good soak before you harvest the dandelion. Otherwise it can be a bit tricky to get all the roots out as they have incredibly deep tap roots which tend to snap easily.
Once harvested and back in the kitchen, chop the leaves off (try eating them in a salad or green smoothie) and wash the roots, removing them of any soil – there’s no need to peel them.
Image from 18th Cuisine
Chop up the roots roughly so they all cook in a similar amount of time, pop them in the oven at 180 degrees and cook for around 20 – 30 minutes. After 10 minutes, start checking them every 5 minutes and remove the smaller pieces as needed (which will cook super quickly) – once they’re dark brown and brittle they’re ready to come out.
Image from Hunger and Thirst for Life
When they’ve cooled down you can grind them – we just use our mortar and pestle to do this, however they could also go into a coffee grinder if you have one.
2 minutes of work leaves you with a really good smell in your kitchen and a fine dandelion powder in your bowl. From here you can store it in a jar until you’re ready to use it – it keeps really well so there’s no rush to use it all quickly.
When the moment’s right, find your favourite teapot, put 2 – 3 teaspoons of the fine ‘dande’ mix in, let it brew for 5 minutes and then find somewhere comfy to sit and savour the flavour -it’s seriously tasty stuff.
Have it with or without milk and enjoy! Image from Elana’s Pantry.
You can also roast dandelion root like you would parsnip or potato and eat it like any other roast vegie, it tastes bitter… but in a yummy, ‘I know this is good for me’ way. If you’d like to find out more about edible weeds, our friends wrote a really ace book, Eat That Weed – which is a fine addition to any good book shelf.
A word of warning: If you are harvesting dandelion from public spaces (parks, roadsides, alley ways and vacant lots etc) please be mindful that there may be contaminants in the soil. This is especially likely in big cities and industrial areas. If you’re unsure of how the land is used or when poisons are sprayed (if at all), check with your local Council.
*Your blogger is Hannah Moloney, co-director of Good Life Permaculture and lover of all things garden-esk.
**By the way, the botanical image (first up) is from here.