Last fall I had pretended to clean up the dandelions from the lawn, but I saved the roots and looked up the instructions for making dandelion coffee. Those roots, roasted and ground, sat in my pantry for most of the winter before I decided to try them. They smelled good and actually a little like coffee, so I made a cup - and what can I say? I'm a believer now!
No kidding, it's a good drink with a little sweetener added. Free is frugal, right? And it's healthy, too.
So Saturday I started out to turn the soil in the two raised beds we made last year, but I got side tracked.
Halfway out to the garden area, under a sand cherry bush, was a large dandelion plant that I'd watched last year, just getting a good start on this year's growth. I had harvested some leaves and buds from it, but otherwise let it grow. (I know, but I LIKE weeds.)
Anyway, the ground was nice and loose from snowmelt over the last few weeks and just ripe for digging, so I dug up the dandelion and cleaned off the large taproot. I found another one nearby and dug it up, too, then I spent the time to clean, slice and roast them.
Then, of course, I had to have a cup of dandelion coffee. It was well worth the effort but I never did make it to the garden.
If you want to try it, make sure you have your other work done first. :)
[Warning: All parts of dandelions are diuretic. Don't drink this if you're already taking a diuretic for any reason, or if you have other health problems that would be affected by a diuretic.]
Be sure to not get it from an area that's been chemically treated in any way. My back yard is off limits to any chemicals, as I grow several "weeds" there.
Look for a healthy plant, dig around it at least a shovel's depth, then lift it out of the ground. You'll break the taproot getting it out; that's fine. It will grow back from what's left. Cut the crown from the taproot and replace it in the soil if you want to encourage even more dandelion plants to grow. Take the root and wash it well, trim off the hair roots and any very small side roots, then scrub well with a vegetable brush or a piece of plastic net.
When you're satisfied that it's clean, cut it into more or less uniform pieces and place it on a baking sheet. Heat the oven to 250 degrees and let it roast over the next few hours. Check it now and then, and if some pieces are brittle, remove them; they're done.
When they're all brittle, cool and store in an airtight container.
To make dandelion coffee, grind the roots in a coffee grinder or break them up with a mortar and pestle - not too finely because they don't settle as well as coffee grounds and you may have to strain the liquid.
Make the coffee like you would camping coffee: Add the ground root to cold water and boil it for a few minutes. It takes about a teaspoon per cup, more or less depending on your taste.
Side note: Frugally, I intended to use the crown for a vegetable, but it was so small and tight, that when I saw a pill bug in the water, I decide it wasn't worth it to look through it that closely.