The roots of the dandelion, dug in the second year of growth, can be roasted and used instead of coffee. Dig up the whole plant in the autumn. Cut off the leaves, and use in salads, or put through the juicer, or add to the compost heap where they are very welcome. Then wash and dry the large tap roots (rubbing off the small hair rootlets), and dry in a cool oven till quite brittle. Roast them to a light brown when needed and grind as coffee. One or two teaspoons brews a cup of pleasant flavour, which has none of the bad effects that over-indulgence in strong coffee can produce.
Another apt name for the dandelion came also from France, where pisse-en-lit was the unhappy outcome of a child’s occasional gorging on dandelion leaves and flowers. Our “Wet-the-beds” has remained to damage the dandelion’s reputation, and its more valuable qualities have been overlooked.
The commercial uses of dandelions have not yet been fully explored, but it has been found that the plants breathe out ethylene gas. This would seem to justify the gardener’s criticism of dandelions as a pest, because ethylene inhibits the growth and height of nearby plants. However, ethylene is used extensively now in artificial ripening of fruit, so some canny orchardists are putting Nature to work for them by scattering dandelion seeds under their fruit-trees. The ethylene given off can aid in the early ripening of the crop.
That most concentrated and balanced food plant, alfalfa, has a natural affinity for dandelions, and if the yellow sunny buttons and “four o’clocks” are found growing in a field, it is certain that alfalfa will grow there to perfection.