Dandelion Herbal Tea
Growing Conditions: anywhere (except Arctic regions)
Flavor Profile: roasted with a smooth vanilla-like flavor
Part: root and leaves
Use: medicinal, coffee substitute
Best Combination:single and other smooth herbs
Preparation: dried root and leaves
Dandelion herbal tea is a classic of teas due to it's roasted yet smooth flavor and health benefits. Considered by the unenlightened a lawn scourge, the perennial dandelion (taraxacum officinale) is actually one of the most versatile and useful plants to be found growing in abundance.
If you were to dig a dandelion root up you would see the fibrous white taproot. The taproot's job is storing inulin, propagation, and mining nutrients from deeper in the soil. However, the root is best loved by herbal tea drinkers as the dried sap -containing part that imparts flavor and benefits to tea.
The roots are easily prepared by washing, cutting and mincing, and drying either at home or commercially. Leaves are even easier to harvest for tea by simply tearing into manageable pieces for drying.
Dandelion root is best harvested later in the year after the weather is
cooler as the inulin, a sugary carbohydrate, begins storage in the thick
root system. All the high-quality, medicinally valuable roots are
harvested at this time as inulin imparts a vanilla-like flavor. Its a
very subtle sweetness, not strong at all. You really should try
dandelion herbal tea plain though to notice this subtle flavor. It
reminds me just how overwhelming the flavor of highly-processed food can
be, which makes up the majority of so many peoples diets today.
Dandelion roots are similar to burdock roots when dried as you can see by the woody texture. Typically, this woody consistency is produced by placing on low heat (250 Fahrenheit) for two hours with the oven door slightly ajar.
You steep the roots for ten minutes to allow a thorough soaking and penetration by the water to bring out the subtle flavors. An infusion is usually 40 ounces of water boiled and the dandelion root, five tablespoons, are placed into the water. When the infusion is finished steeping you should place it in a cool area such as the refrigerator.
The leaves have a more astringent quality to them when picked in early Spring. You really can taste the bitterness of dandelion leaf. With tea its best to use the roots and leaves together for a sweet balance of smooth and bitter. And I mean a sweet balance.
The actual yellow flowers of dandelion are usually reserved for culinary use, but are also dried along with the leaves for use in tea. I love the idea of using these scented yellow blooms in tea or in salad. Give them a try.
After steeping the dandelion tea for a certain time period you should a light yellow to deep brown water color. The leaves make for a light yellow appearance while the roots are a deeper brown color.
What is dandelion herbal tea used for and the best blend?
The dandelion root is commonly ground up and used like a coffee substitute. Well, I don't drink coffee nor care for the taste so I haven't tried it yet. Though I hear it makes a great substitute because of the lack of caffeine.
Medicinally, dandelion has long been used as a tonic for digestion and liver support. Herbalists use the fresh leaves in Spring to clean the liver of toxins and the bitterness of the leaves to strengthen the digestion system (its popular use in Europe). We could all learn a thing from the use of dandelion as an edible herb due to its high nutrient content. The taproot mines up nutrients from deep in the soil to nourish the surrounding environment and people as well. Minerals such as potassium, calcium, and phosphorous are abundant in dandelion along with the vitamins A, C, and the B complex.
So what is the best blend for dandelion?
Really it's a great herb all on its own and certainly the medical use dictates using it alone. But dandelion greens are great with other smooth herbs like nettleleaf and alfalfa. The traditonal herbal use of dandelion and nettleleaf together were due to their liver tonic ability apparently. When ground for a coffee substitute, burdock root is frequently blended in with dandelion. They both have a deep roasted flavor to them.
"Dandelion Tonic" http://www.susunweed.com/An_Article_wisewoman3b.htm