Regular visitors to the Kafevend blog may recall an item back in August that asked: is it really coffee? We looked at coffee substitutes such as chicory and discovered they were particularly popular during war time due to the constraints of rationing. Another coffee substitute has come to our attention since then and we'd like to share it with you today. The unlikely source is a plant that most of us have growing in our gardens, though seldom by design. We're talking about dandelions!
The origin of Dandelion Coffee
How did the little yellow flower get its name in the first place, you may wonder. Some claim that the name comes from the French for lion's tooth- dent de lion- presumably because the flower is yellow like a lion and has pointy petals and jagged leaves like sharp teeth! Whether this is really true is hard to tell, but what is absolutely certain is that, unlikely as it may sound to the uninitiated, people really do make coffee with dandelions.
Dandelion coffee is prepared by roasting the plant's long roots, which are dried and cut up into pieces. Confusingly, it's sometimes badged as roasted dandelion root tea, though dandelion tea can also refer to a tisane made by infusing the plant's leaves. There are plenty of options for buying the drink commercially if you don't fancy scrabbling around on the front lawn and setting up production in your kitchen, though many fans of the drink prefer the freshness of their own home grown brew.
Believed to have originated in Europe and Asia, the dandelion can now be found throughout the northern hemisphere, having been taken to America by early pioneers. In fact, although the USA has long been renowned for its love affair with coffee, settlers there in centuries past were far more likely to brew up the dandelion version, particularly in rural areas where coffee just wasn't available. Although we might well wonder why on earth those European emigrants carried the dandelion with them on their journey across the Atlantic and then encouraged it to flourish in a new land, the medicinal and culinary use of dandelions had been well established for centuries and so they were loathe to leave this precious resource behind.
Health benefits of dandelion coffee
Dandelion coffee is enjoying a current resurgence in popularity because of its various health benefits. For starters, it's believed to benefit liver and kidney function and to aid digestion. It's said to be good for combating water retention as it's also a diuretic- doubtless the source of the old warning not to pick dandelions lest you wet the bed! The list of good stuff in a dandelion reads like the side of a pack of fortified breakfast cereal, containing a veritable host of vitamins and minerals, not to mention chemicals that are involved in boosting memory and regulating blood pressure, to name but two.
What does it actually taste like though? While it can't be claimed that dandelion coffee tastes like the real McCoy any more than chicory versions, many of those who try it become hooked on the roasted and slight nutty taste and enjoy it as an alternative at certain times of the day. Its lack of caffeine mean that it's well suited as an evening drink. If coffee's been giving you the jitters lately, or making it difficult to get to sleep at night, then its dandelion counterpart could well be an idea worth investigating.