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My interest in the medicinal value found in plants led me on a couple of foraging expeditions last summer. I enjoyed walking around my yard and garden, identifying 18 edible wild foods growing there.
I made a mental note last year to watch for the return of early spring flowers. Although today’s temps stayed on the cool side, the sunshine lured me outdoors this afternoon where I could prowl the yard, foraging for tea.
Foraging for Tea
I identified six flowering plants, suitable for brewing a refreshing cup of tea.
A word of caution. When foraging for tea and for consumption, identification becomes extremely important. I checked out foraging books from my local library last summer and spent time examining and identifying the plants growing in my yard.
The following list of wild plants, suitable for tea, are common plants readily available in most of the United States. Some wild foods, however, like mushrooms, require careful examination, as there are poisonous varieties that look similar to the edible ones.
My lilac bush, a start that my grandfather gave me years ago, is in full bloom. The scent is seductively sweet, inviting me to lean in toward the fragrant flowers and inhale deeply.
Lilac leaves and blooms are edible. And like most herbs, they have healing properties. Lilac tea soothes the digestive system and helps to lower a fever.
Use freshly picked flowers to create a delightful tea.
Place 2 tablespoons of lilac flowers, stems removed, in a mesh tea ball or strainer. Place the ball or strainer in a mug and pour in boiling water. Cover and allow tea to steep for 15 minutes. Remove ball or strainer. Add a few lilac blossoms to float on top of tea.
Fresh lilac leaves may be used as well. However they produce a somewhat bitter tea.
The redbud tree announces spring’s arrival with bright purplish pink flower clusters. This beauty is my favorite tree and two of them grace my front yard. Imagine my pleasure when I discovered the tiny flowers are edible.
Redbud blossoms are high in vitamin C and offer antioxidant properties, making the tea helpful for inflammation and for boosting the immune system.
I carried my mesh strainer out to the bigger tree and easily gathered approximately 3 tablespoons of blooms from the branches. Boiling water added and the mug covered, the tea steeped for 15 minutes.
The redbud tea had a light green color and a refreshing and delicate flavor, reminiscent of dandelion tea. I enjoyed this soothing drink for afternoon tea time.
Although most people consider dandelions a weed and a great nuisance, the entire herb contributes to health and wellbeing.
Full of nutrients such as vitamins A and B, manganese, iodine, calcium, iron, magnesium, selenium, silica and chlorophyll, dandelions energize the body, prevent illnesses and fight off diseases. The flowers, which are the least bitter part of the plant, cleanse the stomach and intestinal tract.
Pick flowers before they begin to go to seed. Place in a tea ball or mesh basket and drop into a mug. Add boiling water, cover and let steep for 15 minutes. For even greater health benefits, include a couple of leaves with the flowers.
The common blue violet, which is actually a purple color, is considered a weed. It appears in yards, along sidewalks and in gardens in early spring. The leaves and the cheerful flowers are edible.
Violets are high in vitamins A and C and they have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. They are cooling and moisturizing and cleansing for the blood and lymphatic system.
Snip off blooms with scissors, to brew for tea. Add 2 tablespoons of violet flowers to a mesh basket or tea ball, drop into a mug and add boiling water. Cover and steep for 15 minutes.
This herb, a member of the mint family, springs up in yards as a harbinger of spring. The tiny pinkish purple flowers attract bees and hummingbirds. The plant is so named because chickens love this herb. The entire plant is edible, for chickens and humans.
Henbit, which is often confused for Dead Nettle (see below), is a nutritious wild food, high in iron, vitamins A, C and K, and fiber. Henbit offers digestive support, boosts energy and reduces fevers. Don’t overdo with this wild food, as it can have a laxative effect. An occasional cup of tea or adding the leaves to salads is fine.
Gather the plants, stem, leaves and flowers, and add to a mesh basket. Pour boiling water over the Henbit, cover and brew for 15 minutes.
Henbit on the left and Dead Nettle on the right. These plants often grow together in the yard. Notice the differences in the leaves.
Related to Henbit, Dead Nettle belongs to the mint family as well. The different leaves help to identify which plant is which. Dead Nettle is an important plant in early spring, attracting bees awakening from their dormant winter phase.
Dead Nettle offers support to the digestive system, boosts the immune system and relieves menstrual issues for women. For that reason, Dead Nettle should not be consumed by pregnant women or those trying to get pregnant. Like Henbit, this herb is high in iron, vitamins A, C and K and fiber.
Add Dead Nettle stems, leaves and flowers to a mesh basket, drop into a mug and add boiling water. Cover and steep for 15 minutes. For fun, Dead Nettle and Henbit can be combined when making tea.
My foraging for tea today was successful. I enjoyed the redbud tea this afternoon. And tonight, after dinner, I gathered Henbit and Dead Nettle and brewed a second cup of tea. The combined Henbit and Dead Nettle created an earthy, flavorful tea that reminded me of greens such as kale with hints of sage or oregano.
The wild teas are soothing to sip on and healthy for my body. The act of foraging for tea brings its own benefits as well. I love walking outdoors and feeling connected to nature as I look for the plants and gather a few for my own use.
Plus foraging greatly increases the variety of teas I enjoy this time of year. As my herbal garden grows and wild edibles appear in the yard, I have a wealth of health boosting plants available to choose from.
I am so grateful for the healing power in plants. They truly are my medicine.
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