Brewing tea from wild plants or herbs is relatively easy. The hard part is finding and identifying the plants and herbs that are safe to make into a hot drink. For this article, we are going to assume that you already know to identify which plants are edible and which are poisonous. If you cannot identify a plant, please leave it alone.
Also, do not harvest wild herbs from roadsides because they have been contaminated by gasoline fumes from passing vehicles. You also want to avoid picking herbs that have been urinated or defecated on, but gasoline fumes are far more dangerous than animal waste. You also do not want any plants that have pesticides on them. If all of this seems daunting (or if you don’t have a hidden patch or woodland nearby), grow your own plants and herbs.
Preparing the Botanicals
Pick the plants but do not pick all in the area or at least leave some roots so that the plant population has a chance to grow back. Take them home quickly so they don’t have time to ferment or spoil.
Give the plants a rinse and then chop them up. If you really are sure of the area and that the herbs haven’t been contaminated, you don’t even need to rinse them off. This writer lived in the woods outside of Bath, England for nearly five years. In that time, I could only identify a few edible herbs, including mint and nettle.
In gathering the nettle, I wore work gloves and cut the tips off with a small pair of children’s scissors. I used the scissors to chop up the nettles. If I was desperate for nettle tea and couldn’t find bright green tips, I did go lower and use the darker parts of the plant, but this did make for a much more bitter brew.
Place the chopped up plants in a quart of boiling water or put the kettle on to boil. You will need about a large handful (roughly a cup) of fresh herbs for each cup of tea. Because of the nature of fresh nettle, I did not bother measuring exactly. Over time, you will come to know how much to add to the water.
You could use a regular stove pan, a teapot or a cafetire (also called a French press). I recommend the latter because it’s easy to strain the liquid from the solids. Pour the boiling water into the herbs. Let it sit for at least ten minutes. During this time, you can add spices or fruit if desired.
After time is up, strain, pour into your favourite mug and enjoy. With some plants, such as nettle, you can also eat the cooked leaves after the tea. Only drink one cup at first. Any fresh plant may be a shock to your body, causing unpleasant side effects like diarrhea. After a week or two, you can drink up to three cups of that tea a day.