Wait! Don’t reach into your cupboard for that bag of dried tea leaves to quench your thirst. Step a few feet into the fields, or along some creek bed and pick a few handfuls of strawberry and raspberry leaves to make a fresh leaf tea. While you are along that wetland, grab a couple of sprigs of wild spearmint or catmint to toss into the drink.
Each year, consumers spend tens of millions of dollars on an array of herbal teas off the retail shelves, while a huge diversity of tea options await in the wastelands and fields of North America. Of the dozens of possible plants awaiting your picking, two of the most common are strawberry and raspberry plants, along with wild chamomile, mint and rose (rose hips). While not as popular in the USA as in Canada, commercial teas such as Liptons assortments are purchased year-round, either for use as a hot or cold tea.
Strawberry and raspberry teas are particularly easy to work with, being used fresh or dried. We commonly pick bagfuls of leaves in the early summer, then dry them in on a screen in a shaded area before crushing the leaves and bagging them to be used over the winter months. However, the best tea is made from fresh leaves, picked, bruised by mashing and scraping them with a fork to release the oils and flavour, then making a tea infusion by steeping them in boiled water for ten to fifteen minutes. For colour, throw in a couple of berries. For zest, toss in two mint leaves.
Summer, though, is not the peak demand season for hot tea. Yet, strawberry and raspberry teas (particularly with the mint sprigs) make excellent iced teas, as well. Chill in the refrigerator and toss a couple of ice cubes into your glass, to enjoy a very lively and healthy summer drink.
Strawberries and raspberries contain antioxidants (to fight cancer), plus good amounts of vitamin C, manganese and B vitamins. As well, both are good sources of dietary fibre and are anti-inflammatory and astringent. These last two properties make them valuable as a treatment for wounds, and work well to treat kidney stones, gout and other urinary problems. North American natives used strawberry to treat jaundice and upset stomach, Europeans used the plant to treat bad breath and skin problems and ancient Romans used the plant to treat melancholy and nervous problems.
Although the root is valued for its health benefits, harvesters are advised to focus on the leaves and fruit.
Raspberry is valued for many of the same medicinal and nutritional qualities as strawberry, and, like strawberry, yields its root , fruit and leaves for consumption. Yet, young raspberry shoots, when peeled in early spring, are wonderfully tender and can be eaten raw.
Although strawberry and raspberry teas form the most common uses for harvested plants, juvenile strawberry leaves add a light taste to fresh salads. Crushed and mixed with olive oil, they make a good dressing. But their best use is with wild meats and cold vegetable soups. Create a strong tea infusion by pouring three cups of boiled water over two cups of crushed and packed leaves, then let stand for half an hour. Strain and use the liquid as you would water in zucchini, tomato, potato, pumpkin or other vegetable soups. As a seasoning for meat, dry the leaves, crush them, and let them steep in an olive oil infusion before brushing the blend on barbequing red meats, along with fresh Saskatoon or blueberries. The meat will sing!
Of course, picking your own tea, soup or meat spices in the wild is a personal choice. But it is a choice that not only is free, it is delightfully tasty!
Barter Best For Living Simply
4 years ago