Whoa, where is the summer going? It's been ages since I put up a post and my only excuse is that I love this season so much it's a challenge to sit in front of a screen long enough to write one!
One of my favourite ways to spend summer days is discovering all the plants that grow in our gardens and our woods. They inspire me to draw, to pause, to explore and to play with their medicinal and culinary uses. Today I'm sharing my favourite foraged summer tea recipes.
Most of these plants can be found in the cracks of our sidewalks, in our ravines and green spaces. If you're new to foraging, please read my series and pick yourself up a good ID book so you can learn how to do so safely and sustainably.
There is NOTHING more thirst-quenching than sumac iced tea. It has a heavenly tart flavour that is reminiscent of cranberry lemonade. If I'm lucky enough to find it on a camping trip or long hike, I'll throw a cluster in my water bottle for the taste and for the vitamin C and antioxidants the berries contain. Stag horn sumac is a shrub that has bright red berries that are ripe and ready to pick beginning around late July. The clusters of fuzzy berries grow on furry twigs, hence the name stag horn, like a deer's new antlers. Sumac grows abundantly in the ravines of the city and in the woods. When you find it, pick 3-6 bright red clusters, (not the darker brown ones as thmight be last year's leftovers), shake off any bugs or give them a rinse under running water and then you're ready to make your tea.
3-5 sumac berry clusters
1 litre cold water
Rinse berries, then place in a large glass jar and cover with cool water. Don't use hot water for this infusion or the tannins in the berries will make a tea that's more astringent. Allow to infuse in a sunny spot for a day or two. Once steeped, strain berries out using a sieve. Enjoy as is or add a squeeze of lemon or lime juice and a touch of honey.
Lemon Balm and Wild Chamomile
Lemon balm is probably one you've encountered before. It's a member of the mint family (Melissa officinalis) and like most mint plants is aromatic and medicinal. Good for cooling the body, calming the mind and easing an upset tummy. You can find this one growing wild, but you can also grow it yourself very easily in a big pot or corner of the garden. Mints like to spread and most flourish almost anywhere, but Lemon balm loves morning sun and moist feet. You'll know you've got lemon balm because it will have a strong citrus scent. This is one of the best tasting 'medicines' around! Use it before bed to unwind, after eating to help digest or to ease headaches and tension. Lemon balm makes a gorgeous tea on its own, but I love pairing it with wild chamomile.
Wild chamomile is one of my favourite 'weeds'. I can't pass by this plant without grabbing a few flowers and crushing them to release their incredible sweet scent. Also called pineapple weed, you can guess what it smells like! It seems to grow everywhere and I often find it on the edges of roads and sidewalks and other disturbed areas. It's a small plant with yellow cone-shaped flowers and being in the chamomile family has a similar leaf and aroma, but you'll know it by the sweeter and literally, pineapple-y smell. Like chamomile, it has mild sedative properties, benefits digestion and has a soothing effect.
Lemon Balm and Wild Chamomile Tea
3 large handfuls of lemon balm leaves (ideally before the plant flowers for the yummiest brew)
1 large handful wild chamomile flowers
1 litre of boiling water
Rinse and then roughly chop lemon balm leaves. Place in a tea pot or large glass jar with chamomile flowers. Boil water and then pour over chopped leaves and flowers and allow to infuse for about 30 minutes. Strain and chill before serving.
Wild Rose and Honeysuckle
Japanese Honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica) is a common garden vine and garden escapee that is commonly found in our ravines and disturbed areas. It can grow and spread prolifically and has white and orange flowers that have an incredibly sweet scent. The flowers are highly medicinal, with strong antiviral properties, making them useful for colds, flus and infections. The leaves and flowers make a delicious tea. There's something exotic about their fragrance that makes me remember walking the side streets of Bangkok.
Rose is a large family and are so generous. They're beautiful, smell wonderful and they're edible and medicinal to boot. You can find wild rose in our ravines or woods and garden varieties everywhere. In this tea, we'll use the petals for their subtle taste and cooling properties, but don't forget to pick the rose hips in the fall too!
Sweet Blossom Tea
3 handfuls honeysuckle blossoms
2 handfuls rose petals
Optional: 1 handful mint leaves or red raspberry leaves
Rinse honeysuckle blossoms and rose petals in cold water, removing green leaves and stems. Place in a large pitcher or glass jar and cover with 4 cups warm or cool water. Add mint or raspberry leaves if using. Allow to steep for a few hours to overnight (steep longer if using cool water). Strain out herbs and enjoy. The blossoms make a sweet, cooling tea. I like adding the flavour of raspberry leaves to it. You can serve with a wedge of lemon and garnish with some extra blossoms. If you really want to impress, freeze some ice cubes with edible petals or berries in them for a really pretty look!
Thanks for reading! I'd love to know if you like the recipes and what your favourite foraged teas are. Happy Summer!