Patricia Fearing saves James Bond twice when he’s trapped on ‘the rack’ in Thunderball (1961). First, hearing the tremendous noise of the traction machine going at full pelt (SPECTRE agent Count Lippe having turned the dial to 200), Miss Fearing switches off the machine in the nick of time. Second, she gives James Bond a restorative brandy, rather than dandelion tea, which Joshua Wain, head of Shrublands health farm, thought best for Bond.
We’re not told whether James Bond ever drinks dandelion tea during his stay at the clinic, but it is obviously on the menu. It is also one of the beverages recommended in Alan Moyle’s Nature Cure Explained (1950), which is required reading at the clinic (Bond dutifully flicks through it shortly after his arrival).
My recipe for dandelion tea (also known as dandelion coffee) uses the root of the plant and is based on a recipe by John Wright in The Forager’s Calendar. The leaves and flowers can also be used, the latter being ideal for iced tea. When trying out the recipe, I dug up a root from my garden, which is not short of dandelions. That said, I’m not sure I’d try it again – I’d rather have the brandy. (The drink’s quite safe, just very, very bitter.)
- 1 dandelion root, approx. 10cm long
- A kettle of boiling water
- Milk and sugar to taste
Wash and scrub the root thoroughly. Pat it dry, cut it into three or four pieces, then place it on the window sill or in a warm place for 24 hours to dry further.
When the root has tried and become twig-like, heat the oven to 200C (180C fan-assisted; 390F). Cut the root into small, approximately 1cm pieces. Place them on a baking tray, pop the tray in the oven and roast the root pieces for 20-25 minutes. Once roasted, allow to cool for a few minutes, then grind the pieces to a powder in a mortar or coffee grinder. If the root is still a little fibrous, put it back in the oven for an extra 5 minutes, then continue grinding.
Treat as coffee or, if you don’t want to use your coffee pots, try brewing the root this way. Bring some water to the boil. Put a tablespoon of the powdered root in a measuring jug (I found that my 10cm root converted more or less into a tablespoon of powdered root). Pour about a tea/coffee mugful of boiled water into the jug and let the tea brew for 3-4 minutes. Pour the tea through a strainer into the mug. If wished, add milk and sugar to taste.