Dateline 6 September 2013
I have been craving dandelion root tea. When I worked my prison job I always had a box of Alvita Dandelion Root Tea in my desk and I drank it often. I made it with two tea bags and let it steep a long time, so it was as strong as I could get it.
People would come in my office, smell the tea, and wonder what it was. My co-workers thought it odd that I drank dandelion root tea. There was even some joking at my expense over the years because of it.
The fact is, a hot mug of dandelion root tea is one of the most uniquely satisfying, down-to-earth drinks I've ever experienced. Besides that, from an herbal perspective, the tea is supposed to be a profoundly good general tonic. Among other things, it's good for the liver.
With that in mind, I think my recent craving of this unusual tea was my body telling me that it needed something that only the tea could provide. So I set out to make myself a cup of Taraxacum officinale root tea. But, for the first time in my life, I decided to bypass the store-bought version and make my own, from scratch. This is the story of how I did it.
First, I went to YouTube and watched a few how-to videos. I came to the conclusion that This One was the best of the bunch. I followed the directions there and was well pleased with the results. You should watch that video, but the following pictures will give you a nice little overview.
I happen to have a field full of good, organic weeds, including a lot of dandelions, just like the one you see above.
I dug the roots with a shovel. They come in all kinds of shapes and sizes. The just-dug root shown above is but one example.
After I had collected a bunch of roots, I dumped them on a screen, which is across my homemade Whizbang garden cart ( a very handy homestead tool).
The picture above shows the roots after spraying them off with a hose. I washed them further by putting them in a bowl, filling it with water, sloshing them around, and pouring the dirtied water off. I did that about 4 times before the water poured off clean (and that was an indication that the roots were sufficiently cleaned).
There are a couple of options for processing the cleaned roots. One option is to dry them thoroughly, then grind them to pieces in a blender before roasting. The other is to chop them in a food processor, then dry, then roast. I opted for the latter option, as the video I recommended above explains.
The food processor chops the roots into a uniformly fine consistency, as the picture above shows. Once that was done, I spread the ground roots out on a cookie pan and dried them in the oven at around 200°. Then I roasted them in the same pan with the temperature turned up to 350°. I don't have pictures of this process, but the YouTube video explains it pretty well.
The picture above shows some of the roasted root I made. I ended up with a quart canning jar about 3/4 full. That will last a long time. But I hope to make another batch before the snows get here.
I "brew" a cup of tea by slowly pouring hot water through the roasted root granules. This method is low-tech, easy to clean up after, and works just fine. The tea is a rich black color. The taste is different from the Alvita tea bags I'm used to. It is much stronger—more bitter. But I like it. I like it a lot, especially with a little cream and maple syrup to sweeten.
I have thought about making my own dandelion root tea for years, and now I've done it. It turns out that the process is very simple, and very satisfying. The drink satisfies my craving, and making it myself, from roots dug on my own property, satisfies my desire to become less dependent on supermarkets. Less dependence translates to more freedom.