Herbs in tea mugs

A lot of us grew up thinking of tea as something that came in a bag. As foraging has regained popularity, more people are brewing their own herbal infusions from tea ingredients they harvest themselves, either from their own garden or from wild plants. Some may be familiar, but a number of delicious foraged tea ingredients might surprise you.

Getting Started with Foraging

Before you forage, invest in a good guide so you’re harvesting only plants that are safe to eat. Consider enlisting a local foraging enthusiast to help you get your foraging feet wet. Also be certain you’re collecting from areas that have not been sprayed with pesticides.

As with any herb, it’s important to start drinking wild teas in small amounts and see how you respond. If you have a medical condition, are pregnant, nursing, or on medication, be sure to consult with your physician about possible interactions, contraindications, and dosing. The University of Maryland Medical Center maintains a useful database of complementary herbs where you can find information about many herbal ingredients.

Brewing Your Wild Teas

Numerous common plants can be brewed into tasty teas, many of which have medicinal properties. To extract the most of these marvelous compounds, combine a handful of fresh herbs with 1-4 cups boiled, filtered water. Adjust as needed depending on the strength of the herb and how strong you like your tea. Leave steeping for at least several hours, or even overnight. (You can certainly drink some sooner if you prefer, but you’ll get a more intense flavor and more of the beneficial compounds from the longer-steeped infusion.)

You can also steep your finds in room temperature water in the sun—known as a sun tea—for several hours or in cold water for several days in the refrigerator to retain the most of the plant’s compounds. Strain and enjoy!

And don’t forget to dry some of your foraged teas to stock your pantry with nourishing herbs for winter.

9 Wild Tea Ingredients to Enjoy

Bee Balm

Bee balm

Often called bergamot, these bee-pleasing additions to your garden emit a lovely scent similar to the (unrelated) bergamot fruit, used to flavor Earl Grey tea. When American colonists boycotted British tea, they turned to Oswego tea, the beverage brewed by the Oswego Nation from bee balm (monarda didyma). Be forewarned that different varieties have very different flavors. I was disappointed when I brewed my first pot of bergamot harvested from my garden. Its oregano flavor did not make for a lovely tea at all! Stick with monarda didyma if you’re planning to brew tea from bee balm. If you’re not sure what you’ve got, a little taste of the leaf should tell you all you need to know. Use the oregano-flavored leaves for cooking instead. Bee balm’s medicinal uses include relaxation, pain relief, and digestive support.

Birch

The twigs and leaves of birch trees can be used to make a flavorful and healthy tea. Birch is considered a good detoxifier and contains anti-inflammatory compounds helpful in treating pain from conditions…