Monday, December 6, 2010

The Great Dandelion Coffee Experiment...

My husband and I are great for trying anything....especially when it comes to cooking and gardening!

My son Noah always called them wishing flowers...he always hated it when we mowed the lawn....bye bye wishing flowers!  Lawn maintenance aside, we all know how much people have grown to dislike the lowly little yellow flower. 
Wishing flowers in action!

This summer I was fortunate enough to get a hold of a copy of Susanna Moodie's novel "Roughing it in the Bush".  This woman wrote of her own experiences in the first hand regarding the settling of the Cobourg/Douro area of Hastings County (Peterborough for the sake of argument).  One of the best statements made in the book was "Necessity has truly been termed the mother of invention".  This became my mantra during my unemployment of the past year.

During the winter of 1835, a particularly scarce and difficult year, Mrs Moodie discovered that dandelion roots provided a better coffee than could be found in stores.  Now that was in the 1800's, prior to international trading on a large scale.  Juan Valdez's coveted beans were probably not in the store Mrs Moodie was shopping in.  Her description of the discovery and the process for procuring the drink was so interesting that we HAD to give it a try.  She mentions that dandelion coffee has the opposite effect of coffee beans, allowing the drinker to be calmer and more apt to sleep.

While digging up our parsnips, we were able to find a few dandelions that had survived in the warm fall weather this year.  The long, slender taproots are very similar to parsnips.  They were also all about 5-6 inches long.  We cleaned the taproots gently, as Susanna suggests, so we didn't scrub off the delicate brown skin that gives the drink the flavour.  Once cleaned, we laid the roots out to dry for 2 weeks in a warm spot on our counter top.  We then attempted the roasting.  There were no instructions in Mrs Moodie's book about the she was roasting over a wood stove.  After having roasted our roots on 200 degrees F for about an hour, we ground the roots and straight into the coffee percolator.  Ches brewed the drink twice just in case.  Again, Mrs Moodie talked about brewing the drink on the wood stove until it was thick and dark like the coffee beverage, so we were trying to get that same consistency. 

Result:  If you've ever had the Celestial Seasonings "Sleepytime" Tea, you'll know what flavour to expect from your Dandelion Coffee.  It was very aromatic and floral. 

Things we learned:  Perhaps the next time we try this we'll skip the coffee pot and try the stove for the brewing.  Also, we have since discovered, in other resources, that the roasting should be done for 4 hours instead of one.  Note to self for the next trial!

I'd like to take the opportunity to thank Gayle, who loaned me the book in the first place, as well as Mrs Susanna Moodie herself for writing about her adventures, trials and tribulations as a testiment to the Canadian spirit.

Susanna Moodie 1803-1885

1 comment:

  1. I was expecting this to be about Dandelion greens, which I've had at Italian households cooked up much like a sautéed spinach with garlic and butter, but served cold. I also think there were some pinenuts in there. Yummy. But this is an unexpected post! I love it. Enjoying your blog :)