Today, Taylor and I had a fantastic harvest - of dandelions! I have recently developed a great fondness for dandelion tea, so when I noticed the dandelions were popping up in the front yard I decided to make my neighbors and me happy by digging them out ;)
All parts of the dandelion are edible, but unless you are intentionally cultivating them they can be quite bitter. I turned our scrappy dandelion greens into a compost tea for the garden- and I kept the roots to make tea for me.
Tea for the Garden!
Compost tea for the garden is quite simple. You take whatever weeds you have dug up and put them in a large container like a 5 gallon bucket. Then cover with water and let sit in the sun for a few days. To keep bugs and mosquitoes out, cover the bucket loosely. If it is too tight, the cover can pop off when the compost tea puts off gasses. I usually cover with flat lid and stick a rock or heavy jug on top.
After a few days, the water will have leached out nutrients from the weeds. You can scoop out the goop and add it to your compost pile, then dilute the remaining liquid (usually 1 part "tea" to three parts water) before using in the garden to fertilize. Liquid fertilizers are great in the spring when plants have a harder time taking up nutrients in the cold soil. Just don't get any on you - the smell never goes away...
Tea for Me!
Dandelion tea is made from the roots of the dandelion. The flavor profile is somewhere between the bitterness of coffee and the mildness of black tea, but it has no caffeine.
To make your own dandelion tea, clean off the roots thoroughly with cold water and pat them dry. Then, coarsely chop them and spread out on a baking pan. It is MUCH easier to chop them when they are fresh, rather than after they have been dried or roasted
Roast the roots in the oven at 200 degrees Fahrenheit until they are lightly browned and fully dried/hard. Its hard to say when this will be because it is different for every oven and the quantity/thickness of roots, but the smell will change from dirt to delicious. Stir them every 10 minutes or so to keep them from burning - and plan on it taking one to two hours.
Once your roots are roasted, allow them to cool before storing in an airtight container. When you ready for a cup of tea, use one rounded teaspoon of roots to one cup of boiling water and let steep, covered for 15 minutes. I enjoy mine with a splash of milk.
From Weed to Harvest
Once I started seeing my weeds, especially dandelions, as a free fertilizer for the garden and/or tea for me, I stopped thinking of weeding as "weeding." Instead, I am harvesting a bountiful crop that I put zero work into growing. Weeds are actually quite fantastic. But my neighbors do appreciate when I "harvest" the front yard promptly.