Foraging for Tea

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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

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.

Lilac

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.

Foraging for Tea

Redbud Tree

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.

Foraging for Tea

Dandelion

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.

Foraging for Tea

Violets

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.

Foraging for Tea

Henbit

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.

Foraging for TeaHenbit on the left and Dead Nettle on the right. These plants often grow together in the yard. Notice the differences in the leaves.

Dead Nettle

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.

Foraging for Tea

Spring Teas

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.

Foraging for Tea

Check out my Amazon Storefront for a variety of tea supplies such as tea balls and mesh baskets, and mugs with covers.

Cindy Goes Beyond is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. This affiliate program is designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com, all at no extra cost to you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

White Clover Iced Tea

Today’s simple post is a follow-up to yesterday’s story about foraging in my own backyard. I identified 18 edible plants in my yard, available now or that will reappear next spring. Today I was eager to pick something from the yard to eat or brew into a tea. White clover blossoms dotted the lawn. I decided to pick the flowers and brew a tea.

White Clover Iced Tea

White clover is a very common North American plant, found most often in yards and along roads. The plant originated from Europe and Central Asia and was introduced here as a yard crop. The flowers are white with a pinkish tint and slightly sweet aroma, making them a favorite of bees.

Clover contains protein, minerals and vitamins A, B and C.

Medicinally, white clover has many uses. It can be made into an eyewash, into a tonic for treating fevers, coughs and colds, and it makes a great expectorant. A tincture of the clover leaves is used to treat gout. A tea made from the flowers has analgesic properties, making it helpful for arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and rheumatism. White clover is also considered a good tonic for the blood and cleansing for all the systems of the body.

White Clover Iced Tea

As a culinary treat, the entire plant is edible although the flowers are used most frequently. The shamrock shaped leaves can be added to salads and soups. The are most flavorful when picked before the plant blooms.

The freshly plucked white blossoms can be added to salads or dried and ground up to make a flour. The flowers, fresh or dried, can be used to make tea. The tiny seeds can be ground up as well, making a flour.

I gathered a handful of white clover blossoms, dropped them into a 16 ounce mason jar, and filled the jar with boiling water. I covered the jar and let the tea steep for 15 minutes.

White Clover Iced Tea

The finished tea was a delicate green color. I strained the tea, because bugs are always a possibility with foraged food, and returned the tea to the mason jar. It was hot outside today, with the heat lingering well into the evening. I opted for iced white clover tea.

I let the tea chill while I prepared dinner. By the time my veggie bowl was ready, my tea was cooled down. I added ice and enjoyed sipping on my foraged tea as I ate dinner. The taste was light, slightly sweet and refreshing. I like teas unsweetened, however raw organic honey could be added.

Creating tea from the clover in my backyard was fun for me. Trying anything new has become a creative form of play…discovery play because I learn things I did not know before, about the world and about myself.

White Clover Iced Tea

Foraging in My Backyard

With my awareness turned toward the outdoors this month, three topics of interest came up for me, that I am curious about. All involve being in nature or at least, outside. I love following my curiosity, to see where it leads me.

Today, I learned about foraging.

Foraging in My Backyard

Foraging is defined as “searching for food or provisions”. Although we can search for food at the grocery store, foraging is the practice of gathering edible plants, flowers, leaves, roots, seeds and nuts in the wild. In this case, the wild may mean right outside your back door. Many of the plants that are called weeds can actually be served up for a meal.

I’ve gathered dandelion leaves and flowers from my yard and used them in salads and teas. I wondered what else was growing in the garden and yard that I could eat. I brought home two books from the library to serve as my guides.

Foraging in My Backyard Dandelion leaves are great added to salads or steamed with veggies.

I learned a few basics about foraging.

Know the plants. Identification is very important. Eating an unidentified or misidentified plant or the wrong part of a plant can cause serious and negative reactions. Which is why I picked up the books. The internet has photos and descriptions of edible plants as well. Learning to identify the correct plants is crucial.

Watch for soil contamination. Know the land and how it has been impacted, environmentally. Since I am foraging in the city, for now, my own backyard is the only area I completely trust. My yard was remediated after the 2011 tornado. I know my soil is free from lead, pollutants and debris. I would not forage on vacant lots in my neighborhood because the soil is contaminated. Be aware of the impact of pollutants, run offs, streams that are polluted, herbicides and pesticides on the land. A field is not a safe foraging place, unless the history of the land is known.

Introduce new foods in small amounts. It’s always a good idea to try something new in small amounts, to see how the body reacts.

For this first foraging adventure, I simply walked around my yard and garden, looking at and seeking to identify plants and weeds. I located 18 edible plants, although some of those are herbs I’ve intentionally planted.

Foraging in My Backyard

Those edible plants include bee balm, pictured above, lemon balm, catnip, honeysuckle, mint and surprisingly, the spring flowers from my redbud tree and lilac bush can also be eaten.

I also identified dock, nettle, plantain, violets, white clover, wild lettuce and tangy wood sorrel. I used to chew on that plant as a child. It has a sour citrusy flavor.

Foraging in My Backyard The leaves and flowers of the wild violet are edible.

Foraging in My Backyard The leaves of the plantain are edible, as are the brown seeds when they appear.

Using the books, I was able to identify four other plants that are edible, that appear in my yard in early spring only. I pull up handfuls of chickweed every spring and toss them in my weed bucket. I didn’t know this bright green plant makes a great addition to salads, smoothies or pesto.

Other edibles that show up in my yard in the spring. The orange day lilies come in later. I’ve tried to get rid of them, without success. Perhaps I’ll just eat them!

I chewed on wood sorrel as I walked thoughtfully around the yard, looking at plants. I’ve wondered about the white clover in the yard. Now I know it makes a great tea, just like red clover.

I think changing my diet to plant based has created this interest in wild foods. Food truly has become my medicine, and I have a deep appreciation for the healing benefits found in plants, herbs and flowers. I like the idea of supplementing my diet with these wild cousins of foods I purchase at the market. They are growing in the earth. As I pick them and use them in my teas and meals, the powerful nutrients will go straight into my cells, nourishing me.

I have more to learn. I want to be very confident about what I am picking and eating. I’m excited, however, to forage and include my finds in my meals. Greg inspected his veggie bowl that I prepared for dinner, and recognized everything. He wondered aloud if he would know what he was eating tomorrow night!

Foraging in My Backyard