chamomile flowers

Foraging For Tea

Tea lovers everywhere can take pleasure knowing that all the tea varieties they could possibly hope for are, in many cases literally, right at their feet.

Foraging for edible leaves, flowers and berries can be both exciting and invigorating, and of course, terribly satisfying.

There are a few things you need to keep in mind however, like what is safe to eat or even touch. Also, preparing and storing different teas can vary widely.

Disclaimer

All images and descriptions are for information purposes only. Do not ingest any plant you are not 100% sure of. Always use a quality field guide when making identifications.

First and Foremost Stay Safe!

I would be remiss if I didn’t start out by saying, while out foraging for edibles, if you don’t know what it is, don’t eat it.

There are types of plants out there that can cause rashes and burns merely by touching them, such as poison ivy, poison sumac, and nettle.

poison-ivy

Poison Ivy

sumac plant

Poison Sumac

Nettle plant

Nettle

Others such as the leaves and roots of delphiniums and hemlock, leaves of rhubarb, oleander, and sheep laurel, plus the berries of lily of the valley, english ivy and bittersweet are all poisonous if consumed.

delphinium plant

Delphinium

hemlock plant

Poison Hemlock

rhubarb leaves and stalks

Rhubarb

oleander plant

Oleander

sheep laurel

Sheep Laurel

lily of the valley plant

Lily of the Valley

english ivy

English Ivy

bittersweet plant

Bittersweet

Be sure you know what you are picking. There are some great resources online to assist you in identification.

Where to forage

Try to harvest plants in an area where you know there is little to no risk of contamination from pollution – industrial or otherwise.

Get permission from landowners of private property before you go foraging on their property.

Take only what you can use. Edible plants on public property are a shared resource and a renewable one if we respect it.

Be mindful of the wildlife. Prime harvesting season for humans is also prime harvesting season for animals. While you may run into the occasional squirrel looking for hazelnuts and marvel at the cuteness of it all – you could also meet up with a mama bear looking to feast on the blueberries.

Be prepared, and be safe.

Read More About Food Preservation

Discover (nearly) everything there is to know about food preservation.

Primal Survivor food preservation guide

Common plants that can be foraged for tea

Let’s start with the obvious choices of wild plants we can forage from, like wild strawberry, raspberry and blueberry bushes.

wild strawberry plant

Wild Strawberry

wild strawberry plant

Wild Raspberry

wild strawberry plant

Wild Blueberry

While we often think to go berry picking for snacks and baking – fresh berries can add great flavor to a tea blend, or make a great tea all on their own.

Beware – some berry teas can act as a diuretic or mild laxative.

Berries can obviously be used fresh, however if you wanted to store them, berries freeze well, or can be dried in a food dehydrator. Wash, dry and slice your berries if desired, and freeze in smaller portions, or prepare in the dehydrator, and then seal in smaller portions for later.

Wild cranberries, black berries, and rose hips are some more to try.

wild-cranberry

Wild Cranberry

Blackberry bush

Blackberries

Rosehip plant

Rosehip

Make Fresh Berry Tea

Ingredients.

  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 1 cup berries
  • Strainer
  • Sugar / honey and cream / milk (optional)

Directions.

  • Rinse berries
  • Boil water
  • Add berries to boiling water and steep for 10 minutes ( or longer)
  • Press and strain the berries and serve the tea with cream and sugar, or black if you prefer
  • Add ice for Berry Iced Tea

Not so common plants that can make tea

Goldenrod, Mountain fly honeysuckle berries, Black spruce branches, Birch twigs and bark, Yarrow flowers and leaves, Wild Chamomile and Wintergreen leaves all make great forage finds for tea.

goldenrod plant

Goldenrod

mountain fly honeysuckle

Mountain fly Honeysuckle

Black spruce tree

Black Spruce

goldenrod plant

Birch bark

yarrow flowers

Yarrow 

goldenrod plant

Chamomile

Black spruce tree

Wintergreen


Methods of tea making

In most cases, these can be used fresh to make tea, perhaps with a bit of crushing in the case of berries or grinding in the case of twigs and branches.

In order to stock your pantry with these teas, you would need to dry them to preserve them. A food dehydrator works great for drying things like berries, but often a mesh bag in a dry, clean area with some air movement will work adequately for most leaves and flowers.

You’ll want to make sure you have checked for insects or any rot, and you will need to make sure that the teas are completely dried out before storing.

Remember, dried teas are going to be a lot more potent than they were when they were fresh, and when preparing tea use about 1/3 less of the dried ingredients, than you would the fresh ingredients.

Make Fresh Chamomile Tea

Ingredients.

  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 1 cup wild chamomile cuttings ( you can use the entire plant , or just the flower heads)
  • Strainer
  • Sugar / honey and cream / milk (optional)

Directions.

  • Rinse chamomile
  • Boil water
  • Pour boiling water directly onto the chamomile and steep for 10 minutes ( or longer)
  • Press and strain the chamomile and serve the tea with cream and sugar, or black if you prefer

More Choices for making your own tea

Marsh Marigold, Labrador Tea and Juniper berries are also popular choices for foraged tea varieties, but should be used with caution.

marsh marigold plant

Marsh Marigold

labrador tea plant

Labrador Tea

juniper-berries

Juniper Berries

Marsh Marigold: Needs to be boiled twice before it is considered safe to be consumed – do not consume it raw.

Labrador tea: a popular tea choice, however in large doses it may be toxic, so use sparingly.

Crushed Juniper berries: also known to be toxic if consumed in excessive amounts, so again, use with caution.


Make Labrador Tea

Ingredients.

  • 2 cups boiling water
  • Labrador Tea Leaves
  • Strainer
  • Sugar / honey and cream / milk (optional)

Directions.

  • Place Labrador tea leaves in pot
  • Boil water and let sit a minute
  • Pour boiling water over tea leaves – do not boil the leaves
  • Strain and serve.

Make Juniper Berry Tea

Ingredients.

  • 1 cup of water
  • 1 tbsp juniper berries
  • Strainer
  • Sugar / honey and cream / milk (optional)

Directions.

  • Rinse juniper berries
  • Boil water 
  • Pour boiling water directly onto the juniper berries and steep for 20 minutes
  • Strain the juniper berries and serve the tea with cream and sugar, or black if you prefer

More Edibles to Look For

There are many edible ‘weeds’ that should not be overlooked, and you might enjoy experimenting with, such as the ever popular, and over abundant Dandelion. Violet, Lamb’s quarter, chickweed and purslane are others worth trying.

Dandelion flower

Dandelion

Violet flower

Violet

lambs quarter plant

Lambs quarter

Chickweed

Chickweed

Purslane

Purslane

And even though the dreaded stinging nettle is not to be touched without layers of body armor, it also makes a fabulous tea. Just don’t touch it.

Happy Foraging!


Image credits:

By SWMNPoliSciProject (Own work) [CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
By Freekee (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons
By KENPEI (KENPEI's photo) [GFDL, CC-BY-SA-3.0 or CC BY-SA 2.1 jp], via Wikimedia Commons
By Djtanng (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons
By MPF (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons
By James McNally (self-taken using canon ixus 50) [GFDL, CC-BY-SA-3.0 or CC BY-SA 2.5-2.0-1.0], via Wikimedia Commons
By Caleb Slemmons (forestryimages.org) [CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
By AnemoneProjectors (Flickr: Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) flowers) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
By Andy Rogers (Flickr: Marsh Marigold) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
By Jason Hollinger (Bog Labrador TeaUploaded by Amada44) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
By Dcrjsr (Own work) [CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
By Greg Hume (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
By JeffSKleinman (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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