I’m all for saving the dandelions for the bees, except when they invade my strawberry patch. I’d tear out tomato volunteers if they got between me and my strawberries. There are always a couple of dandelions that land in just the wrong place, and pulling them up by the root ensures they don’t just come right back. So now you’ve got dandelion plants, roots and all.
Well, when life gives you dandelion root, make dandelion coffee!
Dandelion root coffee is what first got me interested in herbs, mostly by accident. I’m not that old, but I still hadn’t seen a computer until high school. My school library got a grant for the first school computers my freshman year, and we were all taken for a token 15 minutes each.
I sat down, not really knowing what to do with the thing.
On the screen in front of me was a yahoo search page, and sitting right there was an ad saying “Make coffee from dandelion roots.” Who knows why I got that particular ad at that moment, but I was intrigued, and down the rabbit hole I went. It’s been nearly 20 years, and herbs and foraging are among my greatest passions.
After all that though, I never actually made the dandelion coffee. Believe it or not, there were very few dandelions growing up. Lawns were manicured, and a stray dandelion was an embarrassment.
Now on my Vermont homestead, the dandelions run wild! I harvested a pile of dandelion roots for a dandelion tincture, and I couldn’t help but save some aside for my first cup of dandelion coffee.
Harvesting Dandelion Root
Dandelion roots don’t pull up easy from our hard clay soils. It took a trowel and later a full on shovel to get these babies out intact. Look for dandelion rosettes popping out of the soil in the early spring, before they’ve gone to flower. Once the dandelions have gone to flower the roots will shrink and become bitter and woody as the plant sends energy up to the flower.
If you’ve missed them in the early spring, you can always buy dried dandelion root online. That’ll save you a lot of time, as hunting down and digging up the dandelion roots took quite a while. I found it takes about 15 dandelion roots to make enough dry roasted dandelion root for a cup of coffee.
Preparing Dandelion Root for Roasting
Once you have the roots, wash them thoroughly. Chop off the upper leaves and save those for a tasty dandelion salad later.
I separated the smaller, scraggly parts of the roots out because they’ll just burn during roasting. The small root pieces are going right into a dandelion tincture, and these big hunks are ready for the oven.
Roasting Dandelion Root
Most online instructions will tell you to roast fresh dandelion root at 400 degrees F (roughly 200 C) for 30 minutes until they’re completely dry and brown, but not burned. My oven tends to run a bit hot, and I was concerned about scorching them, so I set the oven to 350 degrees and roasted them for 40 minutes. They came out perfect. Dry and toasted, but not burned.
If you’re starting with a purchased bag of dried dandelion root, the roasting is much faster. Roast dried dandelion root at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes.
If you want to skip all these steps, and just get to making some dandelion root coffee, traditional medicinals sell it in convenient tea bags, all roasted ready to go. There’s also a company that makes an instant dandelion coffee mix.
Making Dandelion Root Coffee
Once your dandelion root is roasted, it’s time to make coffee. Really, dandelion root coffee is made more like a tea, and you don’t actually have to grind the dandelion root. The book Backyard Medicine recommends mixing the dandelion roots with cardamom or cinnamon and fennel for a warm, spicy flavor. Sure, why not?
The added spices are optional, and if you want just coffee flavor, stick with just plain roasted dandelion root.
Boil the roasted dandelion root along with spices of your choice for about 10-15 minutes. I started with 2 cups of water, but after the simmering time, I had exactly one cup of dandelion coffee. Strain the mix through a fine mesh strainer and it’s ready to drink.
What Does Dandelion Coffee Taste Like?
So now that it’s all said and done, what does dandelion coffee actually taste like? Honestly, I think it tastes pretty well like coffee, but without the acid. The same warm earthy tones, and a very mild coffee bitterness, but none of the acid. I added a splash of homemade maple syrup and a little milk, and my 3-year-old daughter loved it. She was right there harvesting the dandelion roots with me, and she was excited to drink up the fruits of her labor.
She always wants to have coffee time with me in the morning, and I can see that she’ll be excited about a small cup of dandelion coffee in the future.
Roasted Dandelion Root Coffee with fennel and cinnamon
This caffeine-free wild foraged dandelion coffee is tasty on its own, or with a bit of milk of sugar added.
- 2 tbsp roasted dandelion root about 15 dandelions worth
- 1 stick cinnamon or 1/2 tsp cinnamon chips
- 1 tsp fennel seed
- 2 cups water
If you're starting with unroasted root, begin by roasting fresh dandelion root at 350 for 40 minutes or dried dandelion root for 15 minutes.
Place the roasted dandelion root in a pot with all the other spices.
Add 2 cups water and bring to a boil. Simmer for 10-15 minutes.
Strain and enjoy plain, or add milk and the sweetener of your choice.