Wild food forager Paul Tappenden shows us what’s growing wild and edible in our area.
Dandelion root is very beneficial, as a food and a medicine, but it can be a bit of a challenge to sit down to a plate of raw roots, so I’ve experimented with different ways to make them palatable. A few years back I was chewing on a dried root and although it didn’t have a very pleasant flavor, it had a great texture, not unlike jerky. That got me working on different techniques for infusing the roots with flavor.
I started playing with the idea of dehydrating and reconstituting the roots in a sauce or marinade to give it flavor, then drying it out until it became chewy, like meat. After a lot of exploration into different sauces and drying methods, I finally arrived at the formula which I use today.
My secret for tasty and successful results begins with the roots. Choosing the right root can make a big difference in the final result. The old, gnarly roots are harder to clean, and can be really bitter. The younger roots are too skinny. The best roots are the long, wide tap roots on a plant that is about 2-3 years old.
The reason you need long, straight roots is that they are easier to clean and can be cut into strips. Once I have them sliced, I put the strips into the dehydrator (an oven at low temperature would do) to dry them out.
The next part requires making a sauce in which you can either simmer or marinate the dried root. Simmering should be done on low heat for 15-20 minutes. Marinating takes several hours. So far, I’ve used teriyaki sauces, curried sauces and sweet and sour sauces. No matter what other ingredients you use it is important to add some oil. It helps to give the root a nice texture and finish.
After the root has soaked up the flavor, I return it to the dehydrator (oven) and dry it until it is chewy. Dandelion jerky makes a convenient and nutritious snack!