Archive | May, 2011

Dandelion Root Tea: A Tutorial

31 May

Well, it is definitely summer in Chicago.

I was so excited to start my first garden when we moved in with Jeremy’s parents.  They let me make up a big plot in the back of the yard that I tilled (with Jeremy’s help, of course), weeded, composted, and planted.  It’s beautiful and growing. 🙂


When they bought the house last year, the backyard was a mess.  It’s definitely getting there, but the focus is really on the house right now.  When I started working on my garden, the weeds were (and still are) threatening to take over.  The crazy amount of rain we’ve had lately is only making things grow faster.  I’m going to try my hardest to not use any chemicals back there as I’d like my herbs and vegetables to be as organic as possible.  This includes weed killer.

I’d been thinking about dandelion root tea for a while and the fact that I had all of these gigantic dandelion plants at my disposal made me want to try my hand at harvesting, drying, and storing roots for tea.

Dandelions have amazing properties.  It’s kind of funny that one of the most hated weeds is one of the best things you can give your body. Just one of God’s little jokes, I suppose. 🙂 My favorite tea property book gives them the subtitle “The Little Plant That Roars” (110). Besides being packed full of vitamins, iron, and potassium, dandelion roots are an epic detoxifier. They remove toxins, wastes, pollutants, and contaminants from joints, cools and cleans the liver, improves your mood, and cleanses your urinary tract.  Dandelion leaves are equally amazing, but we’ll save that for another post. 🙂

When it comes to harvesting your own dandelion roots, it’s important that you know exactly where the plants come from.  Don’t harvest from a place that has come into contact with animals or chemicals.  Harvesting from within or around your existing vegetable garden is ideal.

fresh from the garden

When you pick your dandelions, look for larger plants as that will often mean a larger, more advanced root system.  I use a large shovel to dig around and under the rooms.  Try not to break them off in the ground.

Dandelion roots will shrink approximately 25% when they’re dry, so you should always pick more than you think you need. 🙂

After you have a nice pile, cut your roots off just below the leaves.  Discard the leaves.  While it would be nice to use the leaves as well, large dandelion leaves are very bitter.  It’s best to compost them and search for smaller, new leaves at a later time.


Next you’ll want to rinse your roots really well.  I use my thumb nail to peel the thin outer layer off, like you would a carrot.  For larger roots, you could use a vegetable peeler.  Get rid of the little hair roots as they don’t contain many nutrients and are pretty irritating.






Hey... that's not a dandelion....

Peeling the roots offers more than just a nice,

clean root to work with.  It will also show you if any of your roots don’t match the other.  Obviously this pretty green root is NOT a dandelion root. Discard that.

At this point, go ahead and preheat your oven.  Mine doesn’t go any lower than 170* F, but something around 150*F or so would be better.

Next, you’ll want to chop your roots up in to small pieces.  Much like mincing garlic.  You want them to be small and similarly sized so they’ll dry at the same pace.


Getting ready to shrink...

Once everything is nice and chopped, you’ll want to blot it as dry as possible with some paper towel.  Extra water will only make the drying process take longer.

Then spread your pieces on a cookie sheet.  Try to spread them out as much as possible.  Once this is done, pop them into the oven.  I’ve found them best way to dry things in the oven is to prop your oven door open slightly with a pot holder.  Jeremy insists this is a useless step, but I swear it works better this way. 😉

Let them sit in the oven for an hour or so and then use a spatula to stir everything up a little bit.  Spread it all back out and stick it back in the oven.  Stir your roots ever half hour or so until they are completely dry.  Sometimes, if I’m not completely sure if my roots are totally try, I’ll let them sit out overnight and check them again the next morning once they’re cool.  If your roots aren’t completely dried out, they’ll mold when you put them in an airtight container.

It’s ok if they get a  little over dried at first.  Some people actually dry, roast, and then grind dandelion roots to use as a coffee substitute.


Once everything is dry and cooled, store your roots in an airtight container.  They should last up to a year.

Dandelion root tea is rather bitter if you’re not used to root teas.  I typically mix mine with dried baby dandelion leaves to boost the nutrition even more and give it a more springy taste. 🙂

Happy Drying!