Susanna Moodie’s Dandelion Coffee

The first generation of British immigrants to the Kawarthas often found themselves substituting for what would have been common products back home. Given that practically all imports had to be paddled and carried to the region, exotic goods from faraway lands were often precious indeed. Susanna came to Upper Canada in 1832, settling near Lakefield with her husband J.W. Dunbar Moodie. Inspired by an account she read about dandelion coffee, she decided to give it a try in 1835:

“During the fall of ’35, I was assisting my husband in taking up a crop of potatoes in the field, and observing a vast number of fine dandelion roots among the potatoes, it brought the dandelion coffee back to my memory, and I determined to try some for our supper. Without saying anything to my husband, I threw aside some of the roots, and when we left work, collecting a sufficient quantity for the experiment, I carefully washed the roots quite clean, without depriving them of the fine brown skin which covers them, and which contains the aromatic flavour, which so nearly resembles coffee that it is difficult to distinguish it from it while roasting.

I cut my roots into small pieces, the size of a kidney-bean, and roasted them on an iron baking-pan in the stove-oven, until they were as brown and crisp as coffee. I then ground and transferred a small cupful of the powder to the coffee-pot, pouring upon it scalding water, and boiling it for a few minutes briskly over the fire. The result was beyond my expectations. The coffee proved excellent—far superior to the common coffee we procured at the stores

To persons residing in the bush, and to whom tea and coffee are very expensive articles of luxury, the knowledge of this valuable property of a plant scattered so abundantly through their fields, would prove highly beneficial. For years we used no other article; and my Indian friends who frequented the house gladly adopted the root, and made me show them the whole process of manufacturing it into coffee.”

Native to Eurasia, the dandelion quickly colonized the Americas—as it has spread to all the world’s continents. It has been a conspicuously successful colonist that has followed humans as they migrated. Though often treated as a weed in lawns, it has become important in providing habitat for pollinators. Who would have thought that the sun would never set on the empire of the dandelion!

Ingredients

  • Dandelion Roots

Directions

  • Cut dandelion roots into pieces about the size of a kidney bean
  • Roast them on a baking pan until they are as brown and crisp as coffee
  • Grind roasted roots to a powder
  • Boil powder in water for a few minutes

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