Well it’s that time of year. Got my large vegetable garden cleaned up for winter. Vegetables are in the jars and freezer and looks like we won’t be hungry this winter. Gives me a good feeling inside knowing the shelves are full. Also healthy eating too. IN other words no pesticides and things. Once the garden was all cleaned up I noticed a lot of really nice large dandelions so I got to digging them up. Washed the roots and got them ready to bake. The roots make the best drink one could ever ask for and so………………….good for you. Here is how I go about it.
Digging The Dandelion Root
You will need a good shovel as Dandelion Roots are taproots that can go up to a foot and a half underground in good soil. Early spring and late fall are the best times to harvest for medicinal purposes or maximum nutritional value. This is the time when most of the plant’s constituents are being stored in the roots, although it wouldn’t hurt anything to harvest anytime for Dandelion Root Coffee.
Roots are much easier to dig when the ground is soft, as during the spring thaw or after a good rainy spell. Once the ground is baked hard by a long, dry period, digging roots can be frustrating work, so plan accordingly.
The best place to harvest is from a farm field that gets plowed frequently or a large garden. The soil will be looser, which allows the roots to get really big and also makes for much easier digging. The dandelions in your lawn or other mowed places are generally stunted and yield very small roots.
Look for the biggest, thickest clumps of dandelion leaves, as these are usually fed by a nice, fat root. I also carry a Jack-knife with me to cut the greens away from the roots. You will need about one 5-gallon bucket of roots to make 3 or 4 quarts of roasted Dandelion Root. This would yield 10 gallons or so of coffee.
If you have time, take the greens home separately and prepare them for freezing. A bucket of roots will give about a bushel basket of greens so plan accordingly! I like to make a day of it and stock up for the whole year on both greens and coffee.
Washing the Roots
I used to scrub each root by hand, and believe me this was a lot of work! I have since developed a much more efficient method where I can process large quantities relatively quickly.
To wash the roots, (you’ll probably want to do this step outside) put them in a bucket, fill it with water and agitate the roots with your hands until the water is very muddy. Pour off the water, fill the bucket again and repeat this process a few times until the water runs clear. At this point you should have a pile of beautiful, golden dandelion roots. Don’t worry if there is still some dirt left on them, as we will be washing them one more time.
Grinding the Roots
With a large kitchen knife, cut the roots into chunks. Put these into a large bowl and fill with water. Move around with your hands until water gets dirty, pour off and repeat until water runs clear.
Now cut into a coarse-looking mixture, small pieces.
If you like, you can wash this coarse mixture one more time to be sure you have squeaky clean roots. If you do, let them drain for a good hour or spread them on a towel until the roots are fairly dry to save time in the oven.
Roasting the Roots
Spread the coarse-ground Dandelion Roots on cookie sheets about ½ inch deep. I can fit 4 cookie sheets, stacked, 2 on each rack, in my oven. Try to roast as much as you can at one time.
Set the oven at 250° and leave the oven door slightly ajar while they are roasting so that moisture can escape. You will be both drying and roasting the roots in this step. The roasting process takes about 2 hours. As the roots dry, they will shrink down to about ¼ of the size when fresh. After they dry they will begin to roast, going from a blonde color to a dark coffee color.
Be sure to mix them every once in awhile with a fork to assure even drying and roasting. You may have to rotate the cookie sheets occasionally if they are stacked to ensure even drying and roasting. As they get close to desired color, be careful not to burn them!
Cool and store in glass jars or old coffee cans, they work good too.