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Wales, United Kingdom
In autumn 2010, my husband Ian and I both quit our jobs, sold our house and left the flatlands of the east for the mountains of Wales. Our goal is to create a more self-sufficient lifestyle in a place we actually like living. Whilst Ian will continue to earn some money as a freelancer, my part of the project is to reduce how much we spend by growing and making as much of what we need as possible. The purpose of this blog is to keep friends updated with how the grand project is progressing, but all are welcome here. If you're not a friend already, well perhaps you might become one.

Friday, 22 February 2013

Foraged Food Friday: Dandelion roots

I know I had dandelions just a couple of weeks ago, but I'm allowed (by myself) to count different parts of the plant as different foods, and it was leaves last time. I was digging over a veg bed yesterday and, unsurprisingly, dug up a number of young dandelion plants as I went. Bearing in mind that the roots are supposed to be edible, I flung them in a heap and took them indoors at the end of the day. It wasn't a very impressive haul...


Pathetic-looking young dandelions

I've heard about dandelion root coffee before, but never bothered to try it because it sounds like a lot of faff, and besides, I'm not much of a coffee drinker. However, since I'd already dug the plants up anyway, I decided to give it a go for the sake of this challenge. I found an interesting website that gives a very easy recipe for making the drink. It also includes a warning that the strong diuretic effect make this inappropriate for those with low blood pressure. Since I do indeed have low blood pressure, the cautious approach would be for me to avoid dandelion coffee entirely (and possibly other parts of the plant too). I'm not that cautious, but I will bear this in mind and make sure I only drink this when well hydrated and not, for example, at the end of a boozy meal.

Following the instructions, after washing the roots and patting dry (with a tea towel), I roasted them. I had the oven lit anyway for stew (gas mark 3, which is 160°C or 325°F), so I just put the roots on a baking tray on a lower shelf for a couple of hours. When I checked them after that, they looked pretty well done. I broke one in half so you can see that it's dark brown all the way through.


Roasted roots

I don't have a coffee grinder and I did consider using a spare pepper mill, but in fact these roots were so brittle that they were easy to break up and crush to a fine-ish powder with the pestle and mortar.


Ground dandelion coffee - roughly a heaped teaspoonful.

Although the recipe said to simmer the drink for around 10 min, I couldn't shake the maxim, Boiled coffee is spoiled coffee. OK, I know it's not really coffee, but still. Lacking also a coffee pot or cafetiere (being not much of a coffee drinker) I chose to brew this in much the same way as I'd brew tea, but with not-quite-boiling water. I left the pot on top of the wood burner to keep warm while it brewed for ten minutes or so, then poured through a strainer lined with a bit of kitchen towel, as the powdered root is probably finer than loose tea.


Well it looks like coffee...

I added milk and sugar, as I would for coffee, and it was remarkably nice and surprisingly similar to actual coffee. It was a bit weak, but then I didn't have many roots. Perhaps it would have been stronger if I'd simmered it, but that would have been more work.

In fact, what surprised me most was how little effort all this was. Starting with roots as a byproduct of gardening (no additional effort), and apart from cleaning, which was a bit fiddly, this was hardly any work at all. I don't think I'll set out to harvest dandelions this way, if only because it destroys the plant, but if I dig up some plants anyway I might well clean the roots and put them aside until next time I have the oven lit.

Also harvesting this week:
Hairy bittercress (+cream cheese sarnie)
Parsnips, unexpectedly
Potatoes, ditto
Red cabbage
Navelwort; Lesser celandine; Sorrel: salad

Also eating this week:
Bilberry and blackberry jam

Foraged food challenge summary page here.

2 comments:

  1. Sorry, haven't been very good at joining in- life's been a bit hectic. I have been eating Jack-by-the-hedge (Garlic Mustard) in sandwiches, plus some chickweed growing in the corner of a flower bed. Oh, and blackberry jam from last year! The birch sap is still in the freezer...

    It's interesting you say you've been eating lesser celandine. This goes mad in shady patches of my garden and I've only discovered it's edible this year. I'd looked it up before, as I have so much, but none of my books mention it so I'd assumed it was poisonous, or just not worth eating.

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  2. Ah, but that's two plants I haven't tried yet. I thought I found garlic mustard last year, but it didn't taste like either garlic or mustard, so I'm not sure! Chickweed is very common, I understand, so I guess I've probably got some around here somewhere, but I've yet to identify it.

    I think I'll focus on lesser celandine next week, since I've mentioned it, as there are some cautions about not eating it too late in the year, at least not raw.

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