..The Intuitive Times
Connecting With Nature


A Fall Harvest with a Difference

by Rev. Barry King

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Fall is harvest time. Each year as the farmer heads to the field to reap the fruits of his labor, I pick up a bucket and a digging tool to harvest another kind of crop. I have had an active interest in wild edibles and herbals for over twenty-five years. I discovered the value of this wild crop sort of by accident.

A number of years ago, I had a home on the edge of the woods in the Saint John River Valley. One year late in the season, while I was weeding my vegetable garden, I realized that I had pulled out a number of very large dandelion roots to throw away. (Weeding has never been my favorite thing!) This seemed like such a waste, so I went to my books to see what I could do with them. I found a recipe for dandelion root coffee. It appeared to be easy and promised to provide excellent results. I was not disappointed - the results were great. The dandelion root coffee was less bitter than regular coffee and could be mixed with regular coffee or chicory with excellent results. Some of my neighbors would politely refuse my offer of a cup of coffee when they realized that it was brewed weeds that I was serving. My enthusiasm was not quite contagious enough for them.

This began my annual trek to the dandelion fields to gather my coffee crop. Over the years, I have learned to always be careful that I harvest in an area which has not been sprayed by pesticides or which has no other sources of toxins such as car exhaust and sewage. I have seen what harvesters can do so to an area, so I take great pains to minimize my impact while I am harvesting. Ideally, no one should know I was ever there. The best areas to collect dandelion roots are where the soil is soft and the roots are easily pulled out without digging. Whenever collecting wild edibles, It is very important that you make sure that you are collecting the right thing. Some of the plants out there can be very poisonous. Dandelions have distinctive leaves so they are easy to recognize but be sure you are collecting the correct roots.

Once you collect the roots, wash them thoroughly being careful not to remove their brown skin. Cut them into small pieces and roast them slowly in the oven at about 120C ( 250F) until crisp and dark brown like coffee. Next grind the pieces of crisp root up in a coffee grinder or blender. If you want, you can use a mortar and pestle but I find this to be too much work. Store in a tightly covered jar and put in a cool place. You can then perk it like regular coffee. You can experiment with the amount to use to suit your taste. I use about 1 level teaspoon per cup of coffee.

It may surprise you to learn that the dandelion was brought to North America by those settling here because it was such a useful plant. It is rich in vitamin A and C, thiamine, Riboflavin, calcium, sodium and potassium. The leaves are valued as a spring potherb and the young flowers can be boiled or pickled. The flowers can be used to make an excellent wine. ( For wine, I use more flowers than the recipes call for - it tastes better.)

In addition to being edible, the dandelion has a number of medicinal qualities. It was listed in the United States Pharmacopea from 1831 to 1926. It has been used as a blood purifier, a diuretic and a general tonic. It can be used effectively in the treatment of rheumatism, kidney and gallbladder disorders and digestive disorders. A naturopath or a herbalists can use the special qualities of this and many other plants to promote healing and restore balance in the body.

For those of you who are less adventuresome, you can find dandelion root coffee in your local health food store.

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