Wednesday, January 14, 2015

We weed weed wee

Enquiring minds are no doubt wondering what all this talk of weed and wee and we and weed the abovely title portends. It's this, you see, I've been messing about with dandelions, one of the world's most famous diuretics, if for "world" you'll accept Culpepper's Complete Herbal (marrying botany and slightly dangerous medicinal advice since 1653). Old Nick Culpepper begins his reflections on dandelions by noting that the vulgar refer to them as "piss-abeds". This would be a clue: however tempting it may seem, you shouldn't drink your bodyweight in water and then gorge on dandelions unless you're prepared to sleep in a nappy on a plastic sheet. The good news, according to our favourite seventeenth-century herbologist, is that piss-abedding can be therapeutic. The dandelion:
openeth the passages of the urine both in young and old [eek!]; powerfully cleanseth imposthumes and inward ulcers in the urinary passages [double eek!], and by its drying and temperate quality doth afterwards heal them; for which purpose the decoction of the roots or leaves in white wine, or the leaves chopped as pot herbs with a few alisanders, and boiled in their broth, are very effectual.
As it happens, the passages of my urine have been in pretty good fettle of recent years, so I haven't been in dire need of a dandelion and alisander soup. However. Ever since the weather killed my first tea plant (a genuine Camellia sinensis, frizzled by a Melbourne heatwave) and then the chickens killed my second tea plant (not maliciously; it just happened to be where they wanted to excavate), I've gotten crazily enthusiastic about tea alternatives that are within my limited horticultural reach. And that means - besides lemon verbena and peppermint and lemongrass and raspberry leaf - dandelion root. What dandelion root tea lacks in caffeine it more than makes up for in a pleasing ... brownness. (How am I going? Talked you into giving up coffee for dandelions yet?)

The best time to harvest dandelion roots, I've learnt from grim experience, is before they flower (as with any root vegetable, the energy stored in the root gets used up in the flowering). We had a burst of dandelion flowering around September, but the next generation is yet to bloom, so this afternoon, with the soil good and soft from rain, I seized my opportunity to hoik up this fine assembly of rooticles.

You could probably brew with them as is, but I'm inclined to chop them up into 1cm lengths and plonk 'em in the oven for 15 minutes or toast them in a dry fry pan. The toasting seems to caramelise the sugars (starches?) in the root which makes these little niblets rather tasty.

They're ready now for my Dandelion Soy Latte deluxe. It's a thing. Sounds slightly more impressive than wee tea. You just plonk a teaspoonful of these into a tea strainer, steep it in your warmed and frothed liquid of preference, add honey if you like, and Bob's your nuncle.

P.S. more weeds for dinner. The mucilaginous mallow of the Malvaceae family has been springing merrily out of the compost I spread around my vegums. Imho, the best thing to do with a weed in the vegum patch is eat it (cf. nettles). Here, therefore, are some mallow leaves (centre) posing with some Murraya koenigii/curry leaves (left) and some cardamom leaves (rightish, downish) before being plonked into tonight's chickpea ragout. The leaves, stem, flowers, etc of the mallow are all edible, and quite an acceptable cooked green, particularly good in a casserole or something that benefits from a bit of thickening.

P.P.S. Tim wishes it to be known that he has brewed dandelion root ale. And lo it was good.

P.P.P.S. this post brought to you by the word "plonk", which I note I have now used four times.


  1. Plonk is a most excellent word. And drink.
    Not tempted by dandelion tea which is probably, given my existing bladder issues, a very, very good thing.
    Need to weed though. Rather a lot.

  2. Sorry to hear of existing bladder issues, you poor thing. For what it's worth, despite all of the above, I don't actually find dandelion tea more diuretic than coffee (but I'm an infrequent coffee drinker, so maybe my innards are particularly susceptible to a caffeinated flushing). TMI, as the kids say?

    Weeding's much more fun when the weeds are useful (edible, compostable, givable to chooks, etc). I have a couch grass invasion in the frontyard that needs dealing with, though, and I could easily put it off til 2019.

    1. Snap on the invasion of the couch grass. I would prefer triffids. Much prefer triffids.

  3. Yep, me too. Triffids are easy to pull up.

  4. I made dandelion wine once but it didn't taste as nice as I expected..... yukkky!

  5. Good to know, Glennis (and welcome)! I haven't ever done anything with the flowers, though I've been vaguely tempted by the idea of dandelion flower jelly. I suspect the bitterness would be overwhelming. I can only just eat the leaves, they're so bitter, and they have to be surrounded by other sweeter/fattier salad ingredients to be palatable.

  6. Dandelion root ale, eh? How many Dandelions did Tim use to make his brew?
    I'd imagine he would've needed a truckload. :P

    Just between you and me, Lexi,

    What did it REALLY taste like? ;)

  7. Hi Kathy. Calling it "dandelion root ale" is a bit misleading; the dandelion root is for flavour, rather than for the sugars that make the alcohol. So it's just brewed with malted barley like any ale, and then the dandelion root is added instead of hops. I'm not a huge hops fan, so I don't mind this as an improvement on ordinary beer.

  8. But if you like your ale hopped, it might be a bit strange.

  9. Hi Kathy. Calling it "dandelion root ale" is a bit misleading; the dandelion root is for flavour, rather than for the sugars that make the alcohol. So it's just brewed with malted barley like any ale, and then the dandelion root is added instead of hops. I'm not a huge hops fan, so I don't mind this as an improvement on ordinary beer.

  10. Dandelion roots are delicious! Try them in tea. You only have to chuck four or five teabags in a gallon of hot unfermented ale to get the right flavour, too. Send you a bottle, Kathy? ;)

  11. Sounds very intriguing, Lexi. I don't know anything about brewing beer. I've tasted a few, though. :)

    Hey Tim! I never knock back free booze, mate. :D

    Do you put any kind of spices in your brew, such as Ginger or cloves?

  12. Spices? But of course. They aren't strictly necessary, a lot of ale in ye olde times was probably drunk straight, but they are quite popular - even dandelion root could be considered a spice, really.

    I've made one or two meads with some added ginger or cloves; a few brews with cinnamon. At the moment my best is probably the dandelion root and fennel ale. That's almost out.

    If you look around you'll probably find a few soft drinks that are closely related to old ale recipes: sarsaparilla, ginger ale, dandelion root and burdock....