Fall Harvest with a Difference
by Rev. Barry
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
those of you who are less adventuresome, you can find dandelion
root coffee in your local health food store.
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