Using Native Plants For Teas
Excerpted from: Using Wild Plants For Teas
In an effort to use all the resources at your disposal, learning how to use the native plants that
are growing in your garden or in the forests or fields is a great idea. Many native plants around
your home are more than just additional greenery. Additionally, many native plants are not only
edible but make excellent teas.
These teas are tasty and also nutritious or medicinal. People have been using wild plants for
teas and tonics for thousands of years, but much of the knowledge escapes most of us. It’s
time to take to the yard and look for some of these delightful herbals for your next cup of tea.
A lot of us grew up thinking of tea as something that came in a bag. As foraging has regained
popularity, more people are brewing their own herbal infusions from tea ingredients they harvest
The first lesson is to be very, very sure that you can correctly identify the plant you are about
to harvest. Not all your wild greenery is friendly, so to avoid mistaking a nice herb for something
poisonous, consider investing in a good plant identification book. A good one should cover
your Wisconsin, have detailed descriptions and images, and mention any plants that are
In general, when you are harvesting and using wild plants for teas, you want the leaves of the
plant. Simply pluck off the leaves as you need them or use sharp kitchen shears. The best time
to harvest is in the morning after the dew has dried. It is also ideal to harvest just before flowers
form, but it is not necessary.
If you can see the leaves and they are in good shape, go ahead and take them. Because the
leaves are the source of flavor and fragrance, be careful not to bruise, crush, or tear them while
harvesting. You want them intact for later.
Use Now: To use your wild herbal leaves for tea, you can either dry them or use them fresh. If you are
harvesting a lot of leaves and want to save some for later, you can dry or freeze them for
storage. Typical measurements for making tea from fresh leaves and dry leaves are three
teaspoons and one teaspoon, respectively, per cup of water.
Use Later: If you will be drying your herbs for storage, harvest complete branches with
the leaves intact. Dry them by hanging the branches upside down in a cool, dry place that is free
from disturbances, dust, and debris. When they are dry, remove the leaves from the branches,
crumble them by hand, and store them in glass containers. Another way to preserve your herbs
is to freeze them. Pick the leaves from the branches of the plant and put them whole into resealable
The leaves of these wild berries make a very pleasant tea. As you await the pleasure of biting into
the fresh, wild fruits, harvest a few leaves to make nice teas. Strawberry tea, in particular, is
astringent, aids in digestion, and makes a good fix for diarrhea, especially for children. Raspberry
and blackberry leaves also make an astringent tea with a stronger flavor than strawberry leaves.
The tea made from these leaves is chock full of vitamins and minerals.
Dandelion wine is not the only beverage you can get from this lovely “weed.” Dandelions are
edible to their core. You can eat the leaves and flowers, make “coffee” from the roots, and make
tea from the leaves. An infusion of dandelion leaves provides you with a good dose of nutrients
and also soothes your stomach. Dandelion greens have a tendency to be bitter, so go for the
smallest, youngest leaves, and if the tea tastes bitter to you, add a dollop of honey to sweeten it.
See Dandelion Recipes for more ideas about how to
Peppermint grows wild and profusely. A sure way to know you have a patch of peppermint is to
break a leaf and take a sniff. You cannot mistake that peppermint smell. The plant also produces
an abundance of small, purple flowers. Peppermint tea is soothing and delicious. It is very
refreshing as an iced tea in the summer and warming as a hot tea in winter. The smell alone
should make you feel relaxed, and drinking the tea will make your upset stomach feel much
better. Wintergreen is a different minty plant. It is a shrubbery that produces small, red berries.
Wintergreen is slightly toxic, but in spite of that, you can make a tasty tea from it that reduces
pain. It contains an aspirin-like substance, so anyone allergic to aspirin should avoid wintergreen
The needles of several pine trees can be made into a tea with a very unique taste. Some might
call it an acquired taste, but the nutritional value of pine tea cannot be denied. Pine needles
have very high quantities of vitamin C, and the tea provides a big jolt of this essential compound.
Use fresh, green needles, wash and chop them, and cover about one tablespoon with a cup of
boiling water. Let the needles steep for five to ten minutes. You can experiment with different
types of pine needles (try Eastern White Pine or Balsam) and mixtures of them for different flavors.
Do not use yew, Norfolk Island pine, or Ponderosa pine. These plants are poisonous! Also,
pregnant women should not drink pine needle tea.
Wild roses are lovely, but they also make a great tea. The leaves, though, are not the source of
tea from wild roses. You want to use the rose hips, or the fruit that comes after the flowers die.
The rose hips are high in vitamin C and other nutrients and when made into a tea, provide a tangy,
delicious, hot beverage. Pick the hips and crush them slightly before steeping in hot water.
Often called bergamot, these bee-pleasing additions to your garden emit a lovely scent similar to
the (unrelated) bergamot fruit, used to flavor Earl Grey tea. When American colonists boycotted
British tea, they turned to Oswego tea, the beverage brewed by the Oswego Nation from bee
balm (monarda didyma). Be forewarned that different varieties have very different flavors. I was
disappointed when I brewed my first pot of bergamot harvested from my garden. Its oregano
flavor did not make for a lovely tea at all! Stick with monarda didyma if you’re planning to brew
tea from bee balm. If you’re not sure what you’ve got, a little taste of the leaf should tell you all
you need to know. Use the oregano-flavored leaves for cooking instead. Bee balm’s medicinal
uses include relaxation, pain relief, and digestive support.
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