Posts tagged #foraging

Tea Chronicles Pt.11 – Alan Hall

Alan Hall -  Wild Food Trailguide, 1973

Alan Hall - Wild Food Trailguide, 1973

This may sound stupid to some more experienced foragers, but I've been hunting wintergreen for some time now - I'm not sure how it eluded me so readily but I never seemed to track any down. I have found a lot of reference to wintergreen in many books but I think "The Wild Food Trailguide" by Alan Hall was one of the best. The book was written in 1973 and is one of the classic guides for the North American forager. I particularly, and understandably, like the expansive wild teas section.

WINTERGREEN Gaultheria procumbens

IDENTIFYING CHARACTERISTICS: This tiny plant is actually a shrub with stems that creep along the surface of the ground or just below it. At interval along the stem, leaf-bearing branches that look like individual plants thrust upward. They are 3 - 6 in. high and have a distinct woody character. The shiny evergreen leaves are clustered at the top of the branches. The leaves are fleshy and tender, pale yellow-green with tinges of red or sometimes almost all red, and smell strongly of wintergreen when crushed; the older leaves are shiny, dark green with lighter undersides, have a tough leathery texture, and are less frangrent.
— Alan Hall - Wild Food Trailguide, 1973
Wintergreen Tea

Wintergreen Tea

The really great thing is that wintergreen grows all year round, due to this I figured now would be as good a time as any to look for it as, there is little else in leaf in its size range right now. Doing a little hiking last weekend I made a point of hunting wintergreen and almost immediately I came across a little patch by the trail head. After that it seemed to be everywhere, maybe I got dialed in. The main thing I checked for was that the leaves actually smelt of wintergreen - the easiest way to make a clear identification.

Wintergreen Tea

Wintergreen Tea

So with the Trangia cranked and the water boiled I threw in a small handful of wintergreen leaves and steeped them for about ten minutes. The resulting brew was great; it had a pleasant but mild minty flavor with a foresty, leafy tang. Very refreshing. Next time I think I'll add a BIG handful and try and eek out some more flavor, but it was an impressive start.

The leaves can be dried but some of the flavor is lost so it's best to use them freshly picked. Hall also goes onto to describe a root beer like concoction which can be made similarly to tea. If I get a big harvest next time, I might give it a try.

"The Wild Food Trailguide" is an excellent book worth hunting out. Hall mentions 16 wild teas in its pages, so you may hear more from this very interesting read.

Posted on March 5, 2013 and filed under Tea.

Tea Chronicles Pt.8 – Berry-Leaf Tea

Berry-Leaf Tea

Berry-Leaf Tea

This tea comes from one of the most celebrated foraging books of all time, Euell Gibbons' "Stalking Wild Asparagus"This classic book first printed in 1962 is far, far more than an edible plants field guide. It is a witty, insightful book that teaches the reader about foraging through Gibbons' stories and exploits. Essential reading. Gibbons has dedicated a whole section to what he calls "Wildwood Teas" (lots of rich Tea Chronicles picking here) which is where we find his recipe for blackberry, raspberry and strawberry leaf tea .

The leaves of these three familiar fruits have long been dried and used for tea and in home remedies. Gather the leaves while the plant is in flower and dry them as directed with other tea materials. One word of warning: be sure the leaves are thoroughly dry before you use them as tea for, as they wilt,they develop a poison which is driven off or altered in composition as the get thoroughly dry. There have been cases of livestock being poisoned by wilted berry leaves, but when these leaves are contained in fully dry, cured hay they cause no ill effects.

Berry-leaf Tea is probably the most effective home remedy for diarrhea but, aside from its medicinal uses, it is also a pleasant beverage and wholesome in reasonable quantities.It contains tannin (as does Oriental tea) and has a pleasant aroma; the flavor differs slightly according to which species is used but all of them make an acceptable substitute for tea.
— Euell Gibbons - Stalking Wild Asparagus, 1962

I had only just read this chapter when I was invited to a friends house who's garden was overflowing with raspberry bushes. I tried to pick the greenest and freshest looking leaves. Once home I laid them out, on newspaper, in the sun on the kitchen table.

Raspberry Leaves Drying

Raspberry Leaves Drying

I left them for a full two weeks to make sure they were completely dry (Gibbons' word of warning concerned me a little.) The colour was still really impressive even on the dried leaves. I steeped a half dozen crushed leaves in boiling water for about 10 minutes and gave it a try. I then added another 6 leaves and left it for 5 minutes more.

The tea was light, even after leaving to mash (steep) for a considerable time and adding additional leaves. I couldn't eek much flavor from it at all. The taste that I did get was a vegetal and slightly herbal flavor. There were some tannins. Not unpleasant, just not much of anything. I have read so much about berry leaf tea I can't help thinking I've done something wrong. I shall persevere with this one, so there may be an update to this post as soon as I can get hold of larger quantities or leaves. Does anyone have any tips for berry leaf tea?

Gibbons' book is, in my opinion, essential reading for anyone with even the slightest interest in foraging, botany, the outdoors or even for anyone that likes a good book. It is still in print and easy to find. I hope to be trying more of his recipes in soon.

Posted on August 30, 2012 and filed under Tea.