From their bright-yellow blossoms right down to their roots, dandelions are incredibly nutritious. This recipe focuses on the root, which can be eaten fresh as a vegetable, or can be dried and roasted to make hot drinks that are delicious substitutes for tea and coffee.
Earthy and slightly bitter in flavor, dandelion roots aid digestion and support liver health. I like to simmer the roasted roots with milk and spices to make a warm and nourishing “chai.”
For an extra layer of mocha-like richness, add a pinch of roasted chicory root. The blue-flowered chicory is a relative of the dandelion and its roots are a common substitute for, or addition to, coffee in France and New Orleans.
You can use dandelion and chicory that you forage in the wild (see tips below), or buy the dried and ground roots from herb purveyors like Mountain Rose Herbs.
Using a soil knife or hori-hori, dig dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) roots, then clean them by agitating them in water and scrubbing them with a brush. Chop the roots into small pieces and roast them in a dry cast iron skillet, stirring continuously, until they’re aromatic and a rich brown color. Let cool completely, and store in an airtight container. Grind them using a coffee grinder, spice grinder, or rolling pin.
Chicory (Cichorium intybus) taproots can grow up to a couple of feet (61 centimeters), so digging them up is a serious affair. Once you’ve cleaned them, thinly slice the roots and roast them for a couple hours in a low-temperature oven (about 200°F to 250°F, or 93°C to 121°C), and then store and grind as you would dandelion roots.
Dandelion and Chicory Chai
1/2 cup (120 milliliters) water
2 thin slices fresh ginger
1 teaspoon coarsely ground roasted dandelion root
1 teaspoon coarsely ground roasted chicory root (or, if you haven’t got it, an extra 1 teaspoon dandelion root)
2 black peppercorns, cracked
2 green cardamom pods, cracked
1 whole clove
1-inch (2.5-centimeter) piece of cinnamon stick, broken into pieces
1/2 cup (120 milliliters) milk of your choice
1 tablespoon (20 grams) honey
Combine the water, ginger, dandelion root, chicory root, peppercorns, cardamom, clove, and cinnamon in a saucepan. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, covered, for 5 minutes.
Add the milk and honey; increase the heat to medium, and bring to a boil again, uncovered. Remove from the heat and strain into a cup. Discard the solids and serve immediately.
Reprinted with permission from Wild Drinks & Cocktails: Handcrafted Squashes, Shrubs, Switchels, Tonics, and Infusions to Mix at Home by Emily Han, copyright (c) 2015. Published by Fair Winds Press.
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(Image credits: Emily Han)