Herbal Tea from the Garden: Fresh and Dried

Reader Contribution by Blythe Pelham
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Since I’m a geezer now, I don’t pop out of my winter mode of chair-sittting artfulness into long hours in the garden of back-straining work with pedal to the metal like I used to. Instead, I take advantage of easing into longer hours of physical labor by combining indoor and outdoor chores. I survey my garden and mesh what I observe with the already-in-my-head plans while I delight in a pot of freshly infused, hand-picked tea.

A few years ago I attended a class about foraging fresh herbal teas from the land. I’ve incorporated this practice into my yearly routine ever since as a celebration of the return of Spring. There are so many plants, often considered weeds by others, that can find their way onto your dinner plate, into your cup, and into the medicine cabinet. Infuse them for teas or create tinctures, balms, and other things for use around the house. If you haven’t fully utilized the treasures in your garden, relax with a freshly brewed cup and relax into this world of research.

From the blossoms of fresh violets and dandelions to the greens of nettles and plantain, there are delights aplenty waiting amongst the other plant members of your family. As long as you don’t spray or use any of the ‘cides (pesticides, herbicides, et al) in your yard, you should be good to go. With that freedom, the main pointer I will share with you is a suggestion to do a little research first. Check out the benefits and side effects possibly connected to the plants you’re considering for your morning infusion.

Many of our outdoor brewing possibilities contain things that can act as diuretics or can otherwise affect our bodies in ways that vary from bothersome to downright dangerous. This is not to say that you shouldn’t experiment. My belief is that we should be our own best expert on our bodies and that with a bit of research coupled with that knowledge we should be able to safely explore the world of plants as ingestible foods.

Gather your gorgeous green goodies

Wash under cool running water

Place in your French press (I now use this stainless steel version since I have broken too many glass ones)

Pour boiling water over the treasures

Let steep for 10-20 minutes—shorter for the more delicate combinations containing flowers and more tender leaves, longer for the sturdier inclusions.

The photo above shows fresh greens on the top and a brew that I dried last year for use through the winter below. You’ll notice a difference in color. Don’t expect a fresh infusion to be as dark and hearty as its dried cousins. For those interested, the green version includes the dandelion, dead and stinging nettles, and the mint in the first photo. The dried tea blend was chamomile, red clover blossoms, chocolate and peppermints, and a pinch of pau d’arco.

I urge you to look beyond the plants you have added purposely to your garden to those that others may see as weeds. Get to know them. Chances are they may be beneficial to the critters in your garden as well as to your huming family. You may also discover that others have been using them as tonics and medicinal helps for thousands of years.

Blythe Pelham is an artist that aims to enable others to find their grounding through energy work. She is in the midst of writing a cookbook and will occasionally share bits in her blogging here. She writes, gardens and cooks in Ohio. Find her online at Humings and Being Blythe, and read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

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