Popular weed that can even be made into ‘coffee’

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For the past few weeks there seem to have been more dandelions than ever – every field, verge and a lot of gardens have been filled with them.

They are quite pretty, although I pull up those which appear in my own garden because once you let them take hold, they will spread rapidly.

Yet they have become a popular weed, particularly with children who love to pretend to be able to tell the time by blowing the seeds – everywhere. Which, of course, helps the dandelion to increase their territory. And insects seem to find the blooms irresistible.

In Victorian times they were cultivated with great care and eaten – by the wealthy – in sandwiches and salads. Even today the leaves are used as cure-alls and the flowers made into wine. You can eat them, and you can drink them, although producing dandelion coffee takes some time and effort.

Taxacum officinalis is, in fact, entirely edible. When picked small, and unopened, the flower buds are quite sweet – some people say it reminds them of honey. The young are edible either raw or steamed and the flower petals are often added to salads. Try to choose those which have never been sprayed or lived near busy roads where pollution is a problem.

Dandelion coffee may not be to everyone’s taste but there is a market for it. If you want to make your own, you’ll need to dig up plenty of roots. Then clean them and slice them into chip-sized pieces before drying them thoroughly.

Chop them up smaller and stick them in the oven on a metal tray for 30 minutes at 200C. Let them cool before grinding them and sticking them back in the oven at 180C for five minutes. Now you have your ‘coffee’.