With less sunlight and warmth, now is the time when plants are moving their energies away from their leaves and flowers, and deep into their roots. This first dip in temperatures alerts the plants: hey, buds! Time's a-changin'! Let's refocus and store your energy down underground for the winter season. Just as we've learned to harvest plant leaves when they are new and tender in the spring, and their flowers when they are showy and vibrant in the summer, we know it's time to make use of this root energy in the fall.
There are plenty of herbs with medicinally beneficial roots to harvest. We're going to talk about two today: Dandelion and Chicory, because they are abundant and local, and because together they make a truly delicious coffee substitute! Speaking of local, if you do plan on harvesting these plants yourself, be sure you are doing so from areas clear of chemicals, pesticides, and toxic runoff from roads and highways! These tap roots soak up what is in the soil--including toxins. If you don't have a backyard you can dig into, try a Pittsburgh Park or the cleanest, greenest place you can find.
We've sung the praises of Dandelion on this blog before, but just a quick recap: Dandelion, that ubiquitous, sunny weed, is an amazing herbal helper for detoxifying the blood, purifying the liver and kidneys, stimulating digestion, and adding vitamins A and C to your body. All that in your morning up of joe? You bet! According to Margaret Grieve's A Modern Herbal:
Dandelion Coffee is a natural beverage without any of the injurious effects that ordinary tea and coffee have on the nerves and digestive organs. It exercises a stimulating influence over the whole system, helping the liver and kidneys to do their work and keeping the bowels in a healthy condition, so that it offers great advantages to dyspeptics and does not cause wakefulness.
Chicory (Cichorium intybu) is that beautiful blue-flowered spindly plant you see on roadsides all over town. It is well-known as a coffee substitute for those with caffeine sensitivities, but chicory also provides some similar health benefits as dandelion. Mountain Rose Herbs has an interesting blog post on Chicory Coffee, sharing the story of its rise to prominence as the New Orleans drink of choice!
To harvest these plants, you'll need to dig deep. As anyone who has tried to remove dandelions from their yard knows, they have deep tap roots and do not come out of the ground easily. Bring a fork or spade to help dig deep all the way around the root to be sure it remains unbroken. Once dug, clean your roots as thoroughly as you can. Chop into small pieces, spread on a baking sheet, and roast at your oven's lowest setting for 8-10 hours. Pieces should be dry and brittle when done.
Once cool, store in an air-tight container, and grind and prepare as you would any other coffee bean!
Herban Root Coffee from the The Herbal Academy
Makes two 16 oz. servings
4 cups water
2 tablespoons dandelion root, roasted and ground
2 tablespoons chicory root, roasted and ground
½ tablespoons cinnamon powder
Natural sweetener to taste
Ground cinnamon, for dusting
- Add the dandelion root, chicory root, and cinnamon to your coffee maker or French press.
- Add boiling water and allow the herbs to steep for 5 minutes to release all the healing properties.
- Strain and add sweetener to taste. Serve dusted with cinnamon.
- The Herbal Academy. "Dandelion: The Dandiest Weed of All." 7 April 2014. Web accessed 28 October 2016. https://theherbalacademy.com/dandelion-the-dandiest-weed-of-all/
- Grieve, Margaret. A Modern Herbal. Originally published 1931. Web accessed 28 October 2016. http://www.botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/d/dandel08.html
- The Mountain Rose Blog. "Recipe: Roasted Chicory Coffee." 7 April 2014. Web accessed 28 October 2016. http://mountainroseblog.com/make-roasted-chicory-coffee-recipe/
- The Herbal Academy. "A Homemade Dandelion and Chicory Root Coffee." 26 April 2015. Web accessed 28 October 2016. https://theherbalacademy.com/a-homemade-dandelion-and-chicory-root-coffee/