I drink a lot of herbal tea, but until recently I hadn't considered making my own.
When we moved into our house, one of the first things we did was prepare an area in the yard for cane berry crops. We planted blackberries, marionberries, and raspberries. Now, four years later, the canes have grown humongous in Oregon's favorable climate. They're so long that we've criss-crossed them on their supporting wires, interlacing the thorny vines and creating a delicious green fence.
Most vigorous of the bunch are the raspberry canes. As much as we love the twice-yearly crop of delicately-flavored berries, it's a continual battle — good-naturedly waged — to keep “volunteers” from sprouting among the grapes, the potato patch, the blueberries, and the lawn itself. They spread by determined underground runners that are fragile enough to break off at surface level with a firm tug, so you never get the actual root.
If you can't beat 'em, eat 'em!
Imagine my delight when I discovered raspberry leaves can be dried and made into an herbal tea! I've experimented with drying other herbs for tea mixtures, and made tisanes with fresh leaves, but the sheer number of raspberry leaves at my disposal makes me giddy! The tea tastes similar to black tea, but without the caffeine, and maybe with just a suggestion of the fragrance of fresh grass. It does not taste like raspberries!
I simply tug up the young raspberry sprouts (under one foot tall) and let them dry between two window screens, laying flat on the sidewalk for a few days in the sun. (I bought my screens at garage sales.)
After the leaves have dried, steep about half an ounce in water and sweeten with a bit of honey or sugar if you like, or add a splash of lemon juice. I usually use boiling water and steep for 5-10 minutes, but there are proponents for steeping in cold water for several hours and then heating the tea if you want to drink it hot. Supposedly this reduces the tannins extracted from the leaf material. Tannins can make tea taste bitter, but I've never noticed bitterness with my homemade raspberry leaf tea.
These leaves, once thoroughly dried, keep well, and should see you through the winter until your next “crop” is available. You can also mix raspberry leaves with other dried herbs. The raspberry leaf tea serves as a great base, and blends well with citrusy herbs such as lemon balm (which also grows like a weed around here) or lemon verbena, or mint-family herbs. Just make sure everything is very dry so it won't mold in storage.
Moderation in all things
As with any herbal tea, care should be taken not to overdo it. There's always conflicting advice on the internet, but the general consensus seems to be that this tea should not be drunk during early pregnancy due to its relaxing effect on the uterus.
For the same reason, it is also sometimes recommended to relieve menstrual cramps and labor pains, and herbalists say it alleviates other ailments as well. I can't vouch for any curative properties: I drink it because it tastes nice, is absolutely free to me, and is my SWEET REVENGE on those persistent prickly raspberry canes.
This is another great reason for us to avoid using poisons in your yard and garden. J.D. and I know that even our weeds are organic, should we choose to eat them, and many weeds are edible. Don't have raspberries in your yard? There are dozens of delicious wild plants that can be harvested and enjoyed, and not just for tea. Surely some grow in your area.
What do you harvest from the wild? Do you make your own teas? Your own salads? What precautions do you take about identification and collection sites? Who did your learn from?
Not sure where to start? Here are a few links to help you get the idea.
- HGTV: Grow your own tea
- Gardens Ablaze: How to make herbal teas
- Yahoo! Health: Make your own herbal tea (video)
- Seeds of Knowledge: The wonderful world of edible weeds
- You Grow Girl: Weeds in your garden? Bite back!