By Ruth D’Alessandro, The Wildlife Gardener The Wildlife Gardener made some of that old wartime staple, dandelion coffee today. Determined to make weeds work for rather than against me, I dug some mandrake-like dandelions out of the patch I was preparing for broad beans, then wondered what I could usefully do with them :
I scrubbed the roots and put them on a baking tray. I baked them at 180°C (350°F, gas mark 4) for about 25 minutes, checking them frequently so they turned dark brown and crumbly but didn’t burn:
The Junior Wildlife Gardeners crushed up the roots in a pestle and mortar until they resembled coffee grounds:
Then we poured boiling water onto our’coffee’, let it brew for a few minutes, strained it and added milk and sugar:
So, what was it like? Not unlike coffee, actually: the same bitterness, a similar flavour albeit, oddly, somewhat plasticky. I was expecting Italian Mr Wildlife Gardener, coffee connoisseur and devotee of Caffè Nero to screw up his face up in disgust, but he pronounced it ‘Drinkable – I wouldn’t say no if I lost my job’. Not so great for the mornings as dandelion coffee is naturally caffeine-free, but the bitters that give the flavour apparently stimulate the liver, bile duct and digestive system. What a great bedtime drink, I thought, but considering that the French for dandelion is pissenlit, I think I’ll stick to cocoa. UPDATE: see Costa Coffee 2 for a new and improved recipe!