We have been waging war on dandelions growing in our yard for years. We think we have dug them all up, and then a few weeks later their little yellow flower heads pop up in defiance. Little did we know that they are not our enemies, but in fact our friends. It turns out that dandelion root tea is delicious! Once roasted, it has a coffee-like flavour, but contains no caffeine, making it suitable for late night drinks.
Dandelions have a tap root, meaning a single, long root like a carrot. Dig these up, trying to keep the root intact as much as possible. I have read that it is better to harvest the roots after they flower, but I say roast ’em if you got ’em. When turning over the soil in the spring, I collect and use all the dandelions I find, and keep collecting them all through the summer.
Remove the leaves and wash the roots thoroughly to remove as much soil as possible. In a big bowl of water, keep scrubbing them vigorously between both hands, changing the water often, until the water is mostly clear.
Chop the roots into small pieces. The smaller the better, but this depends on your knife skills! If you have a lot of roots, it might be convenient to use a food processor, although I never tried.
Spread the chopped roots out in a thin layer on a baking sheet. Bake in a 200˚F oven until dry, usually between 30-60 minutes depending on the size of your pieces, stirring occasionally.
Remove the baking sheet from the oven, and turn the heat up to 350˚F. When the oven comes to temperature, roast the roots until they just start to smoke, about 5-10 minutes, shaking the baking sheet every minute or so. Make sure to watch this step carefully, because the smoke happens suddenly. Once the roasted roots cool, store them in an airtight container until you are ready to use them.
To make the tea, infuse one tablespoon of roasted dandelion roots in a cup of hot water for about 10 minutes. Strain and enjoy!