make dandelion root and leaf tea
Last spring was my first garden in the upper Mississippi prairies and backwaters; lots of sandy loamy soil..and lots of dandelions. Free medicine! When I turned over the new dirt I saved the roots and planted them in the new garden plots. They seemed a little dubious about being in a somewhat more organized double row, but being dandelions they adapted cheerfully through the spring months. Through the summer there were delicious greens and in the fall handfuls of tender roots. Many I left in the ground as they will have a deeper hold and stronger effect over time. Then there is a kind of sensing of which to take (with thanks) and which to leave. Very personal, intimate lesson in sustainability practice, if you want continued supply of dandelion medicine..but more about that later.
Here is a tangled mess of dandelion leaf and root after a quick first cleaning with the hose outside. Then a second wash in the sink where I separated the tops from the roots, picking out any hitch hiking grit, leaves, bugs etc. A toothbrush is handy at this point to get finer grit out of the root crevices. Personally I don't get obsessive about this; a little sand in the coffee builds character. So after the second round, which took about as much time as rocking out in front of the sink listening to a Basia CD, I had a pile of roots and a pile of greens.
I chopped the roots not too finely; from experience there is a nice size for putting into a coffee grinder later if you need smaller or finer material..about 1/4 inch or so. You can also dry thin longer slices; this shape air dries more thoroughly. In most cases it is much easier to chop fresh rather than dried roots so do it at this stage of your tea-making. Since Fall was rapidly turning into Winter I decided to roast my dandelion roots; this adds Heat to the recipe which would be much appreciated later. If you want a cooler effect you could use uncooked root or make fresh root and leaf tea. Each preparation has its own effects and tastes, so you can tailor your recipe for your needs in your seasons. In the past I have roasted the roots in a little honey and butter which is probably terribly incorrect in some way (herbalists please feel free to let me know) but the resulting tea was heaven in a cup.
The greens I patted dry and placed on a clean fluffy towel over an old oven rack, and left in the little gas oven (no extra heat on) overnight. Things dry more cleanly if you get as much water off and allow for as much air circulation as possible. By morning the greens were crumbly-dry. (Don't store any dried plants if there is any water left in the leaves or roots, they will turn into a fermented science experiment in composting in your storage container. I know.) If you are in a hurry you could gently heat your leaves in a dry pan, fluffing them constantly, but they burn and the stronger heat also destroys the more easily denatured water soluble vitamins that leaves contain. Just relax and air dry them instead. So..the next day I had 2 full cups of roasted dandelion root and 2 cups of fresh dried dandelion greens.
At this stage you can use your imagination and dream about what tastes go together..I added dried apple pieces and some chopped almonds. Tea isn't just made of leaves and bark! Some of my students and clients have gone in the mocha-java direction with it, some like more sweetness and lighter cinnamon notes. With a mixed brew of roots and other things, simmer gently in a covered pot on the stove until all ingredients are soft..this may take 10 minutes or so. I have tried percolators, presses, drip makers, and tea pots but the pot-on-the-stove still gets the richest goodies and flavor out of the mixed tea. You can make a multiple cup batch and then reheat a little at a time as you like. (Out of respect to my herb teachers please don't reheat in the microwave if you can help it, but we all live in the world; do the best you can.)
Here is a hot, steamy mug of dandelion root and leaf tea... 1 tablespoon per cup of water makes a dark, espresso-like intensity. Sometimes I mix vanilla soymilk and make a groovy poor-man's latte. I must tell you that some of my holistic, conscientious herb-friends in Kentucky mixed this with bourbon and mint and made a "Dirty Julep". There are many ways to make tea! Have fun combining roots, bark, leaves, flowers, nuts, grains, seeds, fruits, peels..try fresh things, dried things, add flavorings and different milks or additives. If it stands up in the pot and says howdy maybe you should let me know.. Enjoy!
Please look for an upcoming tab on specific nutrient and medicinal properties of individual herbs, starting with dandelion.
..just a note..roots are made to store things, so if there is any chance your soil or water has pesticide or fertilizer runoff, don't use roots that may grow in or near such things..find or make a cleaner place and plant your roots there..of course this means you are no longer just growing dandelions but also involved in local and world environmental nurturing and recovery..