Dandelions and coffee run against each other, historically. Both come from the eastern hemisphere, but from very different places. Coffee grew originally in the Ethiopian highlands, their berries nibbled by goats. Dandelions grew, and still do, as they do across North America now – in great grassy areas, among the rocks, they scatter with the wind, coming up wherever their seeds fall.
Dandelions were brought here for eating as salad greens, and then were abandoned, now to be treated as weeds. Coffee was for drinking, but didn’t really catch on in the British colonies until the American revolution made tea traded through England unpatriotic.
Today, will coffee and dandelions swap places again, with dandelions overtaking the Starbucks brew in popularity? Maybe, if Americans learn to drink down the bitter root and fend for themselves.
Just as the source of tea became problematic for Americans in the late 1700s, the source of coffee is becoming progress in our own time. Coffee is grown in the tropics, mostly on land where rainforest has been cut down, mostly harvested by workers who are paid a pittance for their work. Even fair trade organic coffees sold in the USA aren’t really sustainable. They’re shipped hundreds, and sometimes thousands, of miles. They’re not a local food.
I love drinking coffee, but the more I think about all the energy and exploitation that goes into a cup of joe, the more I want to try cutting back. That’s where dandelions come in. Dandelion root, it turns out, can be roasted and brewed just like coffee.
There are a couple of ways to get dandelion root. One way is to pay for it. Bouncing Bear Botanicals sells it for six dollars for 114 grams. Brew Organic is asking three dollars for just an ounce. That seems a bit steep, considering how easily dandelions grow, doesn’t it?
I suggest, unless you live in a relentlessly paved city, or one of those extreme desert environments in the USA where dandelions don’t grow, that you get out a shovel and dig the dandelion roots up yourself. I have plenty, and I also have some neighbors who I know wouldn’t mind me digging the dandelions out of their lawn.
Now, here’s the “recipe” for making dandelion root coffee:
1. Wash the roots. You’re not making mud brew.
2. Chop the roots into sections.
3. Put these root sections into a bowl of water, and shake them all about until the water gets cloudy. Dump this water out into your garden, or on your houseplants. Repeat, until the water doesn’t get cloudy any more. That dandelion sap is really bitter.
4. Do a coarse grind of the raw roots in a food processor, until the roots are about three times the size of coffee beans.
5. Roast the roots by spreading them out in a thin layer on cookie sheets in an oven at a low temperature, something between 225 and 275 degrees Fahrenheit for about 2 hours. Bake some bread at the same time or do a large batch to be energy efficient. Make sure they’re roasted evenly by mixing them about halfway through the process. The roots should turn the color of… surprise… coffee beans. Be careful that they don’t get burned. Brewed cinders don’t taste good.
6. Find an airtight container to store these roasted roots in, until… you grind them up in a coffee grinder and brew them just like you would with coffee grounds.
7. Take what you don’t brew yourself, and sell that in elegant little bags at extravagant prices.
Try it out, and tell me what you think.