Dandelion Root Brownies have chocolate flavor


Foraging for a new brownie recipe?

Try Dandelion Root Brownies — which really have the weed in the ingredients.

When baked, the root has a distinct chocolate flavor, said Alyssa Garland, who works part time at Carter Historic Farm, part of the Wood County Park District, as the historic farm interpretive assistant.

People will either turn their nose up to this recipe, or be tempted to try it, Garland said.

“There’s no in between. There’s either going to be somebody who’s turned off by it and thinks it’s weird. Or there’s people that are going to remember their grandma making dandelion wine,” she said.

The dandelion is added along with cocoa powder in the recipe — it doesn’t necessarily replace an ingredient. For this baking, Garland also added chocolate chips.

Dandelions can also be used in other dishes, including salad, she said.

“You can cook it like any other green. It’s kind of peppery, like arugula,” she said. “Use the green like any other leafy green — collards, spinach, arugula, kale. It’s peppery and bitter.”

Garland has also used dandelion to make a vegetable dip, with herbs from the Carter farm garden and Greek yogurt.

“It’s got a bitter taste to it, but it’s not like you taste it and go ‘eww,’” she said. “It’s more interesting.”

The yellow dandelion petals can be dipped in a batter and fried, like a fritter, Garland said. The plant base could be used for a burger, too, she said.

Another use is dandelion jelly, also known as poor-man’s honey.

“You take the petals, brew it into a tea, strain it and add a ton of sugar, and you’ve got this jelly,” Garland said.

She explained the relationship of sugar and meals, in historical terms.

“Back in the day, people had cake and pie and honey and bread and butter at every meal,” Garland said. “Farmers back then were consuming between 4,000 and 6,000 calories a day because the labor was so demanding.”

Women would bake a loaf of bread everyday — and much more.

“Everybody was so active, because they had to be,” Garland said, adding that children often walked 5 miles to school.

Garland did a series on Facebook about dandelion uses, including the brownies, plus coffee and wine.

“The whole thing, from flower to root, is edible,” she said. “People have been using the flower for years.”

Dandelion use tends to tick up during difficult times, including the Civil War and the Great Depression, Garland said.

The park district’s Facebook series gained traction during the pandemic, when staff was working, but not in person, Garland said.

She created several virtual programs about life on the farm, including the animals, the farm’s history, the Black Swamp and what’s grown on the Carter grounds.

Carter is a Great Depression-era farm and living history center that was donated to the park district by Lyle and Sally Loomis. Visitors are welcome to experience rural agricultural life in the 1930s and 1940s, with farm animals, sustainable old-fashioned agricultural practices and trails through the woodlot and wetland.

“Another thing we noticed during the pandemic is people trying to be more self-sufficient. Grocery stores were out of everything, and we’re still having issues and shortages,” Garland said. “There’s more people learning how to bake, learning how to can and doing their own gardens.”

Also of interest was how to use herbs and forage.

“The dandelions, I felt would be interesting to people,” she said.

Garland is from Bloomville, near Tiffin. She earned her bachelor’s degree in history in 2016 from Bowling Green State University, and her master’s also from BGSU and also in history in 2018. She said that she and her husband, Toby, are homebodies.

While Garland loves her park work, her passion is history.

“My goal is to be a curator,” she said.

She knew history was her thing in fourth grade when she had to write a few sentences on each president for a school project.

“That is what got me so interested in history,” Garland said. “It was right around that time that my grandma was doing genealogy and found out we were distantly related to the Kennedys. Of course, I said, ‘that’s one of the presidents.’

“When people were reading Harry Potter, I was reading JFK biographies.”

Cooking was also a big part of her childhood.

“I was 8 years old and making lasagna,” Garland said.

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