Summer Tea

Many of our plants are edible. Not edible like a tomato, but edible in that you can make tea from them. Spearmint, Clover, Oswego Tea (red Bee Balm) and Lemon Balm are four that readily lend themselves to the tea making process. A final one we don’t have in our yard (yet) but hope to one day. It’s Sumac. Specifically, Staghorn Sumac.

In the case of the Clover we pick the purple/pink flowers (AKA Red Clover… not to be confused with Crimson clover). For the other three we pick leaves. The Sumac involves picking the berry clusters which look like fuzzy flowers.

 
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Start by boiling water. You don’t need that much fresh material to make a half gallon (or more) of tea. Even a small handful will be more than enough to make at least a quart.

Either put the plant material in a bowl and pour boiling water over it…

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… or after boiling is reached, remove from heat and add the plant material to the pot.

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Allowing to steep for 15-30 minutes will usually be sufficient for a good tea however you can go much longer, including overnight, for a longer infusion period. Up to a point, the longer you steep/infuse the darker and stronger the tea will become.

Once done, pour through a strainer and put the jar of tea in the refrigerator (for cold tea) or you can drink it warm once it has cooled to a drinkable temperature.

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Here are our results:

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So far we’ve made Clover/Spearmint, Spearmint, Oswego Tea, Lemon Balm, Lemon Balm/Spearmint and Sumac.

All were very refreshing with decent flavors. The only disappointment was the Sumac and it was either due to not adding enough or not allowing it to steep long enough.

For those who are gasping as the fact we’re eating Sumac as you’ve always been told it’s poisonous, there is no need to work. “Poison Sumac” is indeed poisonous, however it has white berries that hang down and is found in bogs and areas with similar conditions. Staghorn Sumac and Smooth Sumac have red berry clusters that point upwards and are quite safe to eat. Sumac flavor is described almost as pink lemonade.

Red Clover is highly nutritious, however it also has blood thinner properties so it should be avoided if you’re on blood thinner medication.

Lemon Balm has calming and stress relieving properties.

Bee Balm (Oswego tea) has a whole host of traditional uses. I’ll just point you to good resource to read more about it. https://theherbalacademy.com/benefits-of-bee-balm-monarda-fistulosa-and-m-didyma/

Spearmint is good for various stomach ailments including aiding in digestion.

Sumac is high in vitamin C, among other properties, however I discovered when researching it, that you should only make Sumac tea using a long soak in cold water. Some sources report the hot water destroys the vitamin C in it, while others just state that either is fine but the hot water preparation usually comes out more bitter.

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