Gardening Recipes

Did You Know You Can Make Delicious Tea From These 6 Common Plants?

6 Delicious Teas You'll Be Surprised You Can Make From Common Garden Plants thumbnail

6 Easy & delicious Teas you can make from plants you probably already have in your yard! - www.tyrantfarms.com

Let’s face it: tea is a hot drink. (Although sometimes we think it’s better served cold.) In 1990, Americans drank about $2 billion dollars in tea. Today, we drink about $10 billion dollars of tea annually.

Here in the south, we tend to add so much sugar to our “sweet tea,” that it’s almost better served on top of pancakes than in a glass. However, when it’s not over-sugared, tea is a great way to stay hydrated while drinking something tasty. Depending on the tea you choose, you can also get lots of vitamins and minerals, plus some potent medicinal benefits to boot.

Want to grow tea or wild harvest your own tea?

Even if you don’t have a garden, there’s a good chance that there are edible plants growing in your yard right now, and some of those plants likely have flowers and leaves that make a delicious, healthy tea. And if you don’t have a yard, but you have access to the great outdoors, you might still be able to *forage some delicious, medicinal tea. (*Warning: Don’t ever eat any plant that you aren’t 100% positive you’ve correctly identified; there are plenty of plants that can kill you or make you very sick.)

Organic Tea - Whether you grow, forage, or buy your tea, be sure that you’re not consuming plants that have been sprayed with various pesticides and herbicides. Ain’t nobody got time for that. Plus, it just doesn’t make medical sense to expose yourself to those compounds or use them on the flora and fauna we share the planet with.

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Without further ado, here are six delicious teas you can make from common garden plants (each one is good served hot or over ice):

1. Hibiscus Tea (especially Hibiscus sabdariffa)

Intro

Given how many hybrid hibiscus plants have been bred over the past century, we’re hesitant to say that ALL hibiscus flowers are edible. However, what we can say with certainty is that the variety Hibiscus sabdariffa is not only edible, it’s delicious! It also makes a beautiful landscape plant. We even eat the leaves, which have a nice tart tangy flavor in their own right. The calyxes (the fruit/seed pod of the plant) are where the real magic is. They’re a gorgeous deep red color and much “meatier” than the flower pods of other hibiscus varieties we’ve grown.

hibiscus tea from calyx harvested at Tyrant Farms - www.tyrantfarms.com

Homegrown and homemade Hibiscus sabdariffa tea. The calyxes turn the water a gorgeous bright pink/red color.

Flavor: Tangy and tart
Plant Life Cycle: Annual in cooler climates, perennial in tropical climates

How to Prepare

To make hibiscus tea, snap the calyxes off of the plant by hand or with clippers once they’ve matured (usually ~48 hours after the flower drops). Chop up 1-2 whole calyxes (fresh or dried) for an intense red, tangy tea. Sweeten with honey or stevia leaf. Also great made into jellies, candy, spice, and other goodies.

Proven Medicinal Benefits

  • A USDA study showed consuming hibiscus tea lowered blood pressure in a group of prehypertensive and mildly hypertensive adults. Hypertension is a severe increase in blood pressure that can lead to a stroke. Researchers believe this is due to hibiscus’s angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibiting activity.
  • Reduces total blood cholesterol, aka serum cholesterol.
  • *Not recommended for use during pregnancy.

Where to Buy

  • Certified Organic Hibiscus Seeds (1 g) – $3.50 + s&h – Amazon link
  • Certified Organic Cut Hibiscus Roselle for Tea (1 lb) – $13.89 (Prime Eligible) – Amazon link
  • Certified Organic Hibiscus Powder – $7.95 (spice jar) – $22.95 (1 lb) – Banyan Botanicals

2. Stinging Nettle

Intro

stinging nettle harvested from Tyrant Farms - www.tyrantfarms.com

A nice basket full of freshly harvested stinging nettle at Tyrant Farms.

There are native varieties of Stinging Nettle throughout North America, Europe, Asia, and Africa, so there’s a good chance you’ve seen this plant growing on the edges of fields and forests. Its leaf shape and growth habit is very similar to catnip. We also grow Stinging Nettle in our garden, but it can spread rapidly, especially if you let it seed out.

As the name implies, Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica) can pack quite a wallop if you touch it before it’s been cooked. It feels like a jellyfish sting. The plant’s trichomes (tiny stinging hairs on the leaves and stems) inject histamine and other chemicals into your skin. However, once cooked (boiled, steamed, steeped) its stinging abilities are neutralized and you can enjoy all the flavor, nutrition, and medicinal benefits the plant has to offer. It features a delightful floral-cucumber-spinach flavor, and is considered to be one of the most nutrient-dense vegetables in the world. It also boasts one of the highest protein ratios of any veggie (up to 25% protein, dry weight), and is exceptionally high in Vitamins A and C, iron, potassium, manganese, and calcium.

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Flavor: Flowers, cucumbers, and spinach. The aroma of the tea is delightful: it reminds us of figs.
Plant Life Cycle: Perennial

How to Prepare

In our opinion, the young spring shoots and leaves of stinging nettle offer the best flavor when they’re about 6-8″ tall. Don’t eat them later in the season or they take on a gritty consistency. When harvesting, trim the shoots back to the first growth segment, so they’ll regrow. You’ll definitely want to wear gloves unless you’re a seasoned pro who knows how to handle the plant without getting stung by its trichomes. Pour boiling water over the freshly harvested or dried leaves; sweeten as desired. As mentioned, this is a wonderful food plant as well; one of our favorite spring treats is stinging nettle pesto.

morel mushrooms with stinging nettle pesto and a duck egg from Tyrant Farms - www.tyrantfarms.com

A spring forest and garden to table meal: duck egg served over stinging nettle pesto with a side of morel mushrooms in sage brown butter sauce, garnished with brassica flowers. Yes, you too might have to suffer through meals like this if you garden, forage, and cook. :)

Proven Medicinal Benefits

University of Maryland’s overview of Stinging Nettle indicates that the plant’s many uses in traditional/folk medicine are being confirmed by modern research findings. The plant has shown to be effective in treating Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH, aka enlarged prostate), eczema, arthritis, gout, anemia, and painful muscles & joints. Interestingly, it’s also shown to be effective at reducing general allergy symptoms. This is possibly due to the nettle’s ability to reduce our body’s histamine response to a particular allergen.

Where to Buy

  • Nettle Leaf Tea, Cut & Sifted, Organic (1 Lb) – $17.00 – Amazon link
  • Organic, Heirloom Stinging Nettle Seeds (200 seeds) – $3.50 – Amazon link

3. Strawberry Leaves

Intro

We grow lots of different varieties of strawberries in our garden, ranging from the tiny yellow wonder strawberries to our native wild strawberry (Fragaria virginiana). We also grow domesticated ever-bearing varieties so we can eat fresh strawberries from spring through fall. We can’t understate how much we love strawberry fruit, so when we found out the leaves made a great tea, we considered starting a cult of strawberry plant worshippers to ensure the plant received its due reverence.

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strawberry leaves used for making strawberry leaf tea at Tyrant Farms - www.tyrantfarms.com

Strawberry leaves and fruit.

Flavor: Surprisingly fruity and delicious, but we’ve only used fresh Fragaria virginiana leaves; leaves from other strawberry varieties may offer different flavor notes.
Plant Life Cycle: Perennial

How to Prepare

Use 1 heaping teaspoon of dried leaves or 3-4 chopped fresh leaves per cup of tea. Put leaves in tea ball or simply strain out when pouring into cup. Sweeten with honey or stevia leaf.

Proven Medicinal Benefits

Strawberry berries and leaves both contain a wide range of vitamins, minerals and beneficial compounds. Apparently, strawberry leaves—especially wild strawberry varieties—have exceptionally high antioxidant levels. Very little research has been done on the medicinal qualities of strawberries and/or strawberry leaves. However, according to WebMD (which is a reasonably reliable source): “Strawberry contains chemicals that are antioxidants and might keep cancer cells from multiplying. Other chemicals in strawberry might slow down the speed at which the nervous system ages. That’s why some researchers are interested in studying whether strawberry might help prevent or treat Alzheimer’s disease or other diseases that involve progressive loss of nerve function.”

Where to Buy

  • Native Wild Strawberry Seeds (50 seeds) – $2.50 + $1.99 s & h – Amazon Link
  • Organic ever-bearing strawberry crowns/plants (10 bare root plants) – $9.95 – Amazon Link
  • Organic Strawberry Leaf Tea (1 Lb) – $23.99 – Amazon Link

4. Raspberry Leaves

Intro

Remember how we said we felt about strawberries? Ditto for raspberries. We grow a few different varieties of black, yellow, and red raspberries, and love them all in their own right. Our black raspberries usually come in first, followed by the reds, then our goldens. We also have ever-bearing gold and red varieties that will produce throughout the summer into the fall, so we’re never without raspberries when the weather is warm—which would be positively inhumane. The reds offer a bit more tang than our gold or black raspberries, however we can’t tell any difference in the flavor of the leaves of our various raspberry plants when they’re made into tea.

raspberry leaves used for making raspberry leaf tea at Tyrant Farms - www.tyrantfarms.com

Ever-bearing red and golden raspberries – leaves and fruit.

Flavor: Tea made using the fresh leaves taste surprisingly similar to the actual berry: sublime hints of tang and fruit. When you use dried leaves, the tea takes on a flavor more reminiscent of black tea.
Plant Life Cycle: Perennial

How to Prepare

We trim some of the newer leaf growth from our raspberry plants as they emerge, being sure not to over-harvest the leaves in such a way as to inhibit fruit growth. Also, since cane berries tend to be very vigorous and spread via underground runners, we’ll save the leaves from any canes we trim out of beds. We then dry the leaves indoors on drying racks. This easily provides a few large zip lock bags full of dried raspberry leaves for us to enjoy as tea throughout the fall and winter, when the fresh leaves are unavailable. For a strong cup of raspberry leaf tea, steep a tablespoon of dried leaves in near boiling water for about 5 minutes. The berry fragrance and flavor is amazing! Sweeten with honey or stevia leaf.

Proven Medicinal Benefits

Raspberry leaves are high in calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, phosphorus, not to mention Vitamins A, B complex, C, and E. Does raspberry tea leaf tea work miracles for pregnant women? We’ll let you be the judge, but we’d like to see more well-conducted, large scale human studies before passing judgment.

Where to Buy

  • Organic Raspberry Leaf Tea (16 oz) – $19.43 – Amazon Link
  • Everbearing Red Raspberry Plant (one plant) – $4.99 – Amazon Link

5. Yaupon Holly (Ilex vomitoria)

Intro

Trivia time! What’s the only plant native to North America that contains caffeine? Answer: Yaupon Holly. And there’s a good chance you or one of your neighbors have it growing in your yard, since it’s such a commonly used evergreen landscape plant. It can reach 30′ in height, but is typically kept trimmed to a small bush, often in rows or hedges.

It’s also interesting to note that Yaupons were of great cultural importance to various Native American groups living in the southeastern US, the plant’s native habitat. They used it both in ceremony and as a welcoming drink when hosting guests. European settlers referred to the ceremonial Yaupon concoctions the Native Americans made as the “black drink,” and thought that it induced vomiting. This mythology earned the plant its scientific name “vomitoria,” from William Aiton, who grew it in his garden in Kew, England, but never actually drank the tea or even travelled to the New World. Despite its name and mythology, the leaves of Yaupon Holy are quite safe; it’s the berries that can lead to GI discomfort. In fact, up until the early 1800s, teas made from Yaupon Holy twigs and leaves were quite popular with European settlers and African Americans, not just the Native American populations. The displacement and/or genocide of the Native Americans combined with effective marketing by imported tea and coffee suppliers likely hastened Yaupon Holly’s decline in popularity as a beverage.

yaupon holly leaves for yaupon holly tea harvested at Tyrant Farms - www.tyrantfarms.com

Yaupon Holly: our new favorite caffeinated tea that also happens to be growing 20 feet from our front door!

Flavor: Mild, pleasant, slightly vegetal; very similar to green tea—but we actually like it better than any of the teas made from Camellia sinensis leaves (green, black, white, yellow, and oolong teas are all made from the same plant: Camellia sinensis). In fact, when biologists at University of Florida conducted taste tests comparing Yaupon to Yerba Mate, they found that: “Panelists significantly preferred yaupon holly with and without twigs over yerba mate… The highest ranked infusion was pure leaf yaupon tea.”
Plant Life Cycle: Perennial

How to Prepare

Trim the young growth tips off the plant for best flavor (older leaves and twigs are fine too, but may produce a stronger flavor). Both the stems and the leaves can be used fresh or dried in tea. Do NOT use the berries, as these can make you sick (see above). Use 1-2 teaspoons of chopped fresh or dried leaves and stems per cup of tea. Steep in near-boiling water for 5 minutes. The tea is light greenish-brown in color. Again, this drink does contain caffeine, so be prepared for a nice lift!

Proven Medicinal Benefits

Five independent research studies confirm that Yaupon Holy tea made from the leaves and small twigs of the plants are rich in both caffeine and antioxidants. Research on possible medicinal qualities of Yaupon Holy are virtually nonexistent, however, there is some research being conducted on the broader Ilex family that shows some amazing possibilities, ranging from possible anti-diabetic, anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, and cardiovascular benefits.

Where to Buy

  • Dwarf Yaupon Holly (One 1 gallon plant) – $22.95 – Amazon Link
  • Assorted Yaupon Holly Teas (1-2 oz) – $9.99-$19.95 – Cat Spring Tea

6. Blueberry Leaves

Intro

Remember how we said we felt about strawberries and raspberries? Yep, same with blueberries. Without blueberries, would there really be any reason to go on living? It’s debatable. We were excited when we found out that blueberry leaves also made an antioxidant rich tea. You can technically harvest the green blueberry leaves for tea. However, the best time of year to harvest blueberry tea leaves for maximum flavor and health benefits is in the fall once their colors start to turn crimson due to higher concentrations of anthocyanin flavonoids, beneficial antioxidant compounds in the leaves. Supposedly, the most antioxidant-dense blueberry leaves come from the northern lowland blueberry varieties (Vaccinium angustifolium), but we do just fine with our highland varieties, thank you very much. (Take that yankees!)

blueberry leaves with frost on them - www.tyrantfarms.com

Fall frost on blueberry leaves. The color of the leaves indicates the chemical changes going on within. This is the ideal time of year (and leaf color) at which to harvest your blueberry leaves for tea.

Flavor: Does not taste like blueberries; very subtle flavor with notes of grass, flowers, and bit of bitter.
Plant Life Cycle: Perennial

How to Prepare

Harvest leaves in fall when they’ve turned red due to cooling weather. Use 1-2 teaspoon chopped fresh or dried blueberry leaves per cup of tea. Steep in near-boiling water for about 5 minutes before serving. Sweeten with honey or stevia leaf.

Proven Medicinal Benefits

Just like the plant’s berries, blueberry leaves are also exceptionally high in polyphenols, a type of antioxidant. Research indicates that the compounds found in blueberry leaves could help with various neurodegenerative diseases, Type-2 diabetes, and also offer possible anti-inflammatory and anti-allergenic properties.

Where to Buy

  • Top Hat Dwarf Blueberry Plant (1 plant) *we grow this variety too – great flavored berries on small bushes – $9.99 – Amazon Link | 4 Plants – $21.99 – Amazon Link
  • Loose Leaf Blueberry Tea (500 g) – $26.52 – Amazon Link
  • Emerald Blueberry Plants (4 plants) – $21.99 – Amazon Link
Transparency: The purchase links provided in this article are affiliate links to high quality products and providers. If you click on the links and purchase a product, we wanted to let you know that we’ll get a small commission from the sale (it’s like leaving us a tip for writing this article!). Please know that we’ll never put in affiliate links to low-quality, untrustworthy items or providers.

We hope this article helps you make more tea time! Final tip: always make sure that your pinky finger is fully extended when sipping tea. Doing so gives you the air of sophistication, especially if you’re wearing a monocle.

KIGI,


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