March 10, 2014 at 11:38 AM ET
Dandelion greens have been popping up in salads for a while now, but now dandelion is showing up more and more off the plate—in tea mugs and even wine glasses.
Turns out that those pesky yellow flowers that we try so hard to rid from our yards are the next super herbs—in part thanks to cleanse junkies, who love dandelion for its detoxifying and digestion properties.
Sales of dandelion root tea are skyrocketing—in fact, the Organic Roasted Dandelion Root tea from Traditional Medicinals is now the No. 1-selling tea in the natural channel, which inspired the launch of two new teas, Organic Dandelion Leaf & Root and Organic EveryDay Detox Dandelion ($5 for 16 bags), which launch nationally this month.
“But it’s more than a fad,” said Zoe Kissam, herbalist for Traditional Medicinals. “Dandelions have a rich history in the U.S., and more and more people are re-discovering the nutritional and health benefits associated with all parts of the plant.” She describes the taste of the new leaf and root tea as “enjoyably mild and sweet.”
Another big brand, The Republic of Tea, just launched its first dandelion tea—Organic Dandelion SuperHerb ($13 for 36 tea bags,). A touch of French vanilla enhances the root’s flavor, “making it a nice alternative to coffee,” spokesperson Kristina Richens said.
And if tea isn’t your thing, you may soon encounter dandelion wine, long a thing in the Dakotas. Murrieta Wine Field, which is believed to be the first dandelion winery outside the Midwest, is harvesting its first crop this month in southern California.
Halfway between Los Angeles and San Diego, Murrieta, Calif., isn’t the easiest place to grow grapes, so for that reason, and to set themselves apart, owners Kevin and Christalyn Brooks decided to produce dandelion wine instead.
“I thought, ‘I can plant and grow weeds!’” Christalyn Brooks joked. Unlike the teas, which are most often made with the root, dandelion wine is made with the yellow flower of the plant.
The couple had a hard time finding dandelion seeds at first—“Lots of people laughed and said, ‘Most people are trying to get rid of those,’” she recalled—so they had to mail-order 80,000 seeds from Oregon. And unlike with grapes, which yield one harvest a year, the couple hopes to get three or four harvests this season.
“It has a little surprise taste to it because of the flower,” Brooks said. “It’s not what people expect—it’s kind of like chardonnay with a little tea taste to it.”
They plan to first produce a straight-up dandelion wine—called D’lion—and then dandelion/fruit blends, including possibly one with rhubarb.
So can you go out back and pick your own weeds to jump on the bandwagon? Well, technically, yes, but it’s best to leave it to the pros. Kissam says her company goes to great lengths to secure pharmacopoeial-quality herbs, which are better than food-grade herbs because they help ensure the teas deliver their intended effect, she said.
“While you can make a ‘tea’ using dandelions found on your front lawn, its wellness benefits may not be as powerful …” she said.