Dandelion Root Coffee

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What sort of extras do you have time for? Yoga? Scrap-booking? TV? Floor mopping? Puzzles? Going to the gym? Movies? I’m afraid I don’t have time for any of those things. My life is too fast-paced for such indulgences and I’m simply much too busy. Busy picking dandelions. Isn’t it wonderful most of us have some choice in what we do with our time–even if it’s just a half hour a day? I think yoga must be terrific but I don’t know how I’d ever squeeze it in at times like these when digging dandelions roots is absolutely urgent.

I read somewhere that millions of French children, women, and old men feel the same way I do. Though I’m not sure this is true, I like to imagine the French roaming the countryside en masse in pursuit of the aptly named pissenlit. Besides it’s diuretic action, dandelion root is an immune system stimulant, lowers cholesterol, reduces inflammation, and can be used for digestive problems, according to my two beloved books.

If you are collecting the root for coffee, or the greens for salad, it’s best to do it is in spring before the yellow flower appears. After blossoming, the leaves get too bitter and the root quality is compromised. You can harvest the root in late fall but I find the coffee made from spring roots more pleasant and not at all bitter. I also tried roasted parsnip root coffee (did I tell you how busy I am?) but it was disappointing. I thought it would taste like caramel latte because of the root’s innate sweetness but it ended up tasting like roasted parsnip. Shucks.

Dandelion coffee, on the other hand, is something I wish I had more of. Yes. I wish I had more gigantic dandelions to dig up but now my garden is completely clean. Our lawn is still full, of course, but those roots are much smaller than the ones grown in loose soil, and hardly worth picking. Perhaps foraging is best done in lesser amounts anyhow; better to be wanting more and waiting for next year’s seasonal ritual than over-doing it.

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drying dandelion root

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chopped up dandelion root before roasting

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upper left–roasted, and shredded, parsnip root; Lower right–roasted dandelion root that has yet to be milled

Dandelion Root Coffee Recipe

  •  Soak freshly dug roots in water to loosen dirt.
  • Scrub roots and let dry on a towel for a few hours/day.
  • Chop roots into evenly sized pieces and dry.
  • Roast in a cast iron skillet until the pieces turn a chocolate brown. The aroma is wonderful! (You can also roast in the oven at 350 for about 20 min.)
  • Coarsely grind roasted chunks in a coffee mill and store in a glass jar. (Alternatively, you can boil the root chunks, without milling them, for about 5-10 minutes and then let them steep to make a decoction. Strain to drink.)
  • To prepare a cup of fresh brew, boil water and use a french press (or a tea pot) to steep ground roots for at least 5 minutes. I like my coffee and tea black, so I don’t add anything to this, but it might be nice with cream, sugar and cinnamon.
  • Drink up!

Enjoy your extra time today, however you fill it,

Tricia

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The Bigger Life

It’s getting difficult for me to cut the grass.

I’ve never been particularly fussy with our lawn–it seems there’s always something more pressing, or interesting, than clipping grass. But in recent years, as I learn more about wild plants, I’m apt to stop my machine mid-mow, get down on hands and knees and take a picture, or harvest something, or do both.

Wild violets interrupted the task yesterday.

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Early Blue Violet (Viola adunca) found in my yard. Their fragrance is AMAZING. Violet plants contain large amounts of vitamin A and C and have been used traditionally to treat skin ailments, coughs, and colds.

Belén, collecting violets.

Belén, collecting violets.

Viola adunca. I took this one to show the shape of the leaves and how they hide in a lawn.

I still haven’t mowed our backyard this season. Did I mention we have the most gracious neighbours in town? Whenever I make a comment to Helen about the dandelions, she waves her hand and says, “Don’t you worry, you’ve got plenty of other things to busy yourself with.” Another kindly neighbour has mentioned he’d be willing to come over with a spray bottle and a little 2,4-D. (He’s also the one I’ve found–unexpectedly–with a pitchfork in the middle of my garden, working the soil before spring planting.) I thank him and decline the offer, adding something about the girls being barefoot and chemicals. I don’t tell him we eat the dandelions.

chemical-free dandelions

chemical-free dandelions in my backyard

ingredients for dandelion fritters

ingredients for dandelion fritters: blossoms, eggs, flower, salt, your choice of seasoning, and oil for deep-frying

blossom to be dipped in egg. (Check out my nails. I stopped in the middle of transplanting tomatoes to make these!)

Susanna was a willing helper. She thought the end result tasted a lot like McNuggets.

Susanna was a willing helper. She thought the end result tasted a lot like McNuggets, but she wouldn’t eat more than one. I ate about thirty.

Dandelion fritters with chives and cottage cheese.

Dandelion fritters with chives and cottage cheese. I don’t have a picture of the ones I liked best: individual blossoms fried separately. They were light and crunchy–even with a heavy, gluten-free flour mix.

While walking to the library yesterday, Belén saw a yard carpeted with yellow. The grass was long, dandelions were everywhere, and a sheet hung haphazardly to cover the front window. I thought the house might be vacant. Belén interpreted it differently.

“Oh,”she sighed, “They must have children.”

I knew what she meant. She figured anyone willing to let their whole yard be consumed by dandelions had to be a parent. And clearly, one who had the best interests of their child at heart.

******

After writing part of this post last night, I stopped to read a book about a couple who had four children and then adopted another five. I’d picked it up at our library’s browser table but didn’t think I’d take it home. Despite the intriguing premise, I was wary of slogging through poor writing. (Good stories don’t always mean good writing.) I was pleasantly surprised, then, when I  found myself laughing out loud in one sentence and murmuring over a poignant image in the next.

Near the beginning, the author describes how one of her recently adopted sons would protect his food during mealtime. He ate quickly and defensively, with his arms draped around his plate and cup. Whenever he spilled water he’d cower in fear, expecting punishment. He treated water as a precious resource, disbelieving there would be enough. Finally, she bought her son a canteen to strap on his body to alleviate some of his anxiety.

It struck me, while reading this, that as I post about a handful of dandelions, children are searching for their next drop of water.

While I upload photos and try to think of cute anecdotes, kids are scrounging for something to eat, or rocking back-and-forth violently to self-soothe.

Her story reminds me of the bigger world, beyond my own interests and hobbies. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with wild-crafting, gardening, teaching, writing, cooking and raising my own family, but it’s so easy to forget there’s more. More than ME.

I have moments like these, when my blinders come off, every so often. They’re accompanied by a sense of urgency, of wanting to do something radical. And in my zeal, I run through the options: Should we adopt children? Move to another country? Give away all our money? Make huge life-style changes? The urgency smacks of hopelessness and confusion, too. I know we want the bigger life, I just don’t know how to get there.

Last night, when I was at this point, I remembered my mantra of the next step: whether writing a book, spring cleaning, or contemplating careers, all I have to do is finish the next paragraph, wipe the next drawer, or make the next phone call. I don’t have to get it all figured out, just the choice that’s ahead of me.

Today, my “next steps” are:

1. Pray I’ll be sharp enough to see opportunities when they arise

2. Volunteer at the community garden

3. Make supper

4. Write a cheque

5. Publish this post

What are your next steps to a bigger life?

Tricia