Tea time in Tea Bay

September 2018

There’s nothing like a hot cup of tea to get you going first thing in the morning. It warms everything from your nose to your toes, soothes that raspy cough, and calms the nerves. Earl Grey, Green, or Chai, whatever your favourite, it becomes part of your morning routine and without it the day just doesn’t seem to start off right. But before you head to your tea stash, did you know that there’s plenty of plants in Northwestern Ontario, some as close as your backyard, that you can use to make delicious teas?
Preparing your tea collection is quite simple. Pick the plant on a sunny day, leaving enough stem to be able to tie a small bunch together, hang to dry, and when several days have passed and the plant is fully dried, pull off the leaves and/or flowers, and store in a glass jar. If you can’t wait for the plant to dry this way, place the leaves on a cookie sheet lined with paper towel and dry in an oven set to the lowest temperature, being sure to turn the leaves over a few times. When making the tea, put a handful or two into a teapot, pour boiling water over, steep and enjoy.
You can also experiment by making different combinations. An all-time favourite is a handful of mint, a handful of clover flowers, and a smaller handful of rose hips, steeped for ten minutes and served with honey.
Below is a list of a few of the local plants you can harvest to create your tea collection:
Stinging Nettle
Just like the name implies, this plant does sting when it’s touched so use gloves and wear pants and a long-sleeved shirt when heading out to gather the leaves. It’s recognized by many as the most nutritious plant on earth, believed to be a great detoxifier and blood building herb.
This aromatic multiflowered plant with fern like leaves can be found alongside roads and fields and typically appears in full bloom mid July to late August. Many claim it is the “herb for women” helping with everything from irregular menstrual flow to menopause and everything in between, including nasty migraines. Since the tea made from the flowers and leaves has a strong and somewhat bitter flavour, sweeten with a spoonful of honey.
Field Horsetail
This bristly, fern-like plant lacks flowers and leaves, appearing more like a stem with many other stems branching off the main stock. The plant can take over your garden if you’re not diligent with your weeding! Pick the plant when it’s older and hanging down to get the full nutritional effect of the silicic acid that many claim is valuable for kidney and bladder trouble. Dry the whole plant, break up into smaller pieces and store in a glass jar.
Pick the leaves before the plant has flowered and dry. Many believe it is good for disorders of the liver and gallbladder.
Blueberry and Raspberry
Just like the dandelion plant, pick the leaves before the plant begins to flower. Dry on a baking sheet lined with paper towel in a low heat oven, turning the leaves several times. Blueberry tea producers believe the antioxidant gallic acid in the leaves helps with the redness, swelling, and pain associated with inflammation. Raspberry leaves are believed to be helpful for women for relief from menstrual cramps and during pregnancy as a healthy tonic to help prepare the womb for childbirth.
Pick the flowers on a sunny day and dry in a low heat oven on a pan lined with paper towel. If you check it out on the internet there are many claims to the benefits in using red clover tea including everything from stopping cancer growth to improving diabetes symptoms to preventing balding.
This short broad-leafed plant is commonly seen growing in your lawn alongside the green grass and dandelions. Many believe it helps with a large variety of issues such as lowering cholesterol levels, relieving hemorrhoids and irritable bowel syndrome.
This daisy-like flower grows in clay soils, arable land, and hillsides. Cut the stem, dry and use the flowers and leaves for a tea that will help if suffering from cramps, stomach aches, flatulence, or diarrhea. It also, as many people know, helps relieve insomnia.
Pick the rosehips after the first good frost in September and dry in a low heat oven on a cookie sheet, (no paper towel needed) making sure to stir the rosehips every 20 minutes to keep them from sticking to the pan. Contains lots of vitamin C.
The lovely smelling plant can spread quite quickly when left to grow in a corner of your garden. It’s a good idea to dry large quantities of this leaf since its flavour goes well when mixed with all of the above-mentioned teas. Some believe it increases bile secretion and encourages bile flow, which may help to speed and ease digestion and support healthy cholesterol levels.
There are many more plants out there that can be used to make tea but these suggestions should be enough to get you started on creating your local tea collection. Be sure to do your research though, and if you have any health concerns always consult your doctor. A recommended book is Health through God’s Pharmacy and can be downloaded for free at: https://openlibrary.org/books/OL24975381M/Health_through_God's_pharmacy
And please, when harvesting your plants, do the respectable thing for the environment, take only what you need, remembering that the plants need to continue to grow and there are many other creatures dependent on them.

Donna White is an accomplished author and Jubilee Medal winner for her volunteer work with World Vision. Visit her website at www.DonnaWhiteBooks.com

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