Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Foraging For a Coffee Substitute!

Dandelions are springing up everywhere.  If you have a lawn then, then like me, your first though is probably "damn them".  From a foragers point of view, Taraxacum officinale is an edible proposition.  All parts of the dandelion are edible, the roots, leaves and flowers.  Dandelions are also renowned for their medicinal use, evidenced by the 'officinalie' in its Latin name (officinalis refers to its value as a medicinal herb).

In "The River Cottage Handbook No.7, Hedgerow" John Wright notes that the dandelion "...is an exceptionally healthy food containing vitamins A, C and K, along with potassium and calcium and  a reasonable amount of protein.".

Not a bad nutritional profile for a weed, right?  But Wright advises the leaves be collected before the plant flowers, otherwise they can taste rather bitter.  By most accounts, all parts of the plant have some degree of residual 'bitterness' which is usually masked with some form of sweetener. 

However, if collected prior to flowering, they add a 'bite' to a tossed green salad and can be boiled and used as a substitute for spinach.  The flower can be made into (superlative) wine, marmalade jelly, or simply boiled/stir-fried of even deep fried in to a 'fritter'. 

These above uses require flour and sugar.  Non-paleo eh?  So here's the paleo-thing - the root can be roasted as a coffee-substitute!  Although the roots are fleshiest towards winter you can still use those roots available now.  Simply collect the roots, scrub them clean, dry them thoroughly in a low-oven, and then roast them at 200C/Gas Mark 6 for 30 minutes.  Once roasted, grind them up for coffee!

Paleosphere, I give you the solution to the most ecologically unsustainable and most un-paleo part of our lifestyle! Dandelion coffee. 

Ithangyou :)

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