Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Would you like a cup of Tea or Coffee?

My dad hates dandelions like Dirty Harry hates the concept of crime.  Every time he finds one in the garden he’ll rip it out of the ground and throw it in the compost bin and every time he does this my mum tells him “come the apocalypse you’ll be glad of a few dandelions, you can eat the leaves and make coffee out of the root.”  This sounded like a challenge to me...

A quick googling told me that not only could you make coffee from dandelion root; their leaves can also be used to make tea.  I quickly realised that the ability to make a good cup of tea would be an essential skill as a member of the human resistance and started my attempt at middle class survivalism by harvesting dandelions.  Leaves were easy to find and collect, but the roots were trickier.  I had hoped to uproot the plants with a strong tug, but the dandelions would snap in half leaving the roots buried.  I had to dig them out, this was a bit tricky at first but once I found a trowel in the shed it became much easier.  Having collected enough ingredients I retired to the kitchen to begin preparation. 

Eaten raw the leaves are like peppery lettuce.  It’s not particularly nice but it’s not horrible.  A dandelion leaf would make part of a perfectly acceptable post apocalyptic BLT.

I made the tea by ripping up the leaves into the small pieces before pestle and mortarising them.  Eventually I was left with a green slop.  I placed the slop on a piece of kitchen roll to absorb any excess moisture as the leaves dried and boiled the kettle.  

One teaspoon of dandelion mush placed in a cup of hot water made a fresh, pleasant if unspectacular green liquid.  It’s a very healthy tasting drink, not the best in the world but much nicer than hot water.  If western civilisation was wiped out by some terrifying cataclysm and it was this or nothing I’d definitely drink it.

I made the coffee by scrubbing all of the earth off the roots before placing them on a baking tray and roasting in the oven at gas mark 4 for about half an hour, until they looked brown and crispy but hadn't quite turned black.  Once the roots had been roasted I ground them with a pestle and mortar into a fine powder and added a tea spoon  to a mug of boiling water.  The resulting brown liquid smelt and tasted coffeeish.  Again this wasn’t the most amazing drink in the world but it was perfectly drinkable. 

I preferred the dandelion coffee to the tea because it had a stronger, more distinct flavour.  However the tea is easier to make and requires fewer dandelions than the coffee (one big dandelion could make a cup of tea whereas I needed 5 or 6 dandelion roots to make a cup of coffee.  Whilst I’m glad I’ve learnt how to make drinks out of a common weed (and definitely think this has improved my chances of been fully accepted into a rag-tag bunch of survivors trying to stay alive in the bleak nuclear winter) I’d definitely say that in terms of hot drinks alone the present beats any future post-apocalyptic wasteland.

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