Foraging for a fresh cup of tea in your back garden could not be more fitting on Earth Day. To celebrate the great timeless, life-enhancing pursuit of foraging in our nature for food. I’ve made a little homage to my favourite cup of weedy tea combining three easy to find weeds, Dandeloin, Cleaver or Goosegrass and Stinging Nettles! Foraging is such a fun thing to do. It’s not without it’s pitfalls, which is picking the wrong weed. But generally it’s a fun thing to learn and once you know what to pick you are away.These are easy peasy to recognise.
Take a look in fields and meadows, your back garden and urban pavements with cracks in them. These are excellent hunting rounds for the sunshine blooming dandelion, whilst Cleavers, the sticky weed that was fun to throw on each others backs at school, can be found mostly amongst the bottoms of hedgerows amongst the nettles. Nettles of course are abundant in most waste land. The main thing to remember is don’t pick your weeds in places were dogs are most likely to do their daily business!
A Cupful of Dandelion
I like to use my single cup strainer for making all my herbal teas. It's so easy to use, I even release teabags from their papery prisons and let the leaves flow out. Teabags often contain plastic and glue! Add 1-2 Dandeloin flowers in the tea basket, cover with boiling water and leave for 15 minutes.
Weedy Brew Tea Pot
Add 4-5 dandelion flowers, a couple of long lanky Cleavers and 2-3 nettle tops to a tea pot or cafetière and top up with hot water. I like to use a see through, heatproof jug or pot, so you can admire the beautiful vibrant green and yellow colours. Allow to infuse for 15 minutes. Strain and enjoy!
Gather them in, gloves on. However they are sneaky and will get you somewhere, it doesn't matter how protected you are. I usually get stung on my wrist or ankles! A good rub of dock leaf soothes the sting and you can always find them hanging out amongst the nettles.. In March the whole plant can be eaten, but as they develop just take the top young leaves of nettles and once they start flowering stop picking, usually don’t pick after June, when the leaves become strong and tough.
Give them a good wash in a colander and simply cover with hot water in a teapot or cafetière. There are lots of recipes you can add nettles to. Just remember to strip away the tough stalk, they are best simmered in just a dash of water, strain them, and drizzle in olive oil and garlic or add butter and lots of seasoning. Nettle pesto works well or nettle puree which can be spread on toast, or add to pasta or scatter the leaves over pizzas. Imagine you are dealing with spinach, where ever you would add spinach you can add nettles. They also work well in green smoothies. Once it’s cooked or pureed, the stinging element is eliminated. Use stingers in your food and your friends will be impressed!
Most people will recognise the dandelion which is a wild flower that hangs out along roadsides and in urban parks, as well as being a wild flower found in meadow land and farm lands. Gardeners like to get rid of them with nasty weed killers. If you need them gone form garden. Then salt works a treat.
They are a lovely fresh wild food to include in your diet, offering colour, cheer and variety of flavour. They grow abundantly so it is a joy to include them in your meals during the brief time that they are in season, April and May. They are quick and easy to collect: about as fast and convenient as wild food gets! back to the eating part… the good news is every part of the flower can be eaten, the leaves, roots and flowers. The leaves can be collected at any time, but they are less bitter and more crunchy just before the flower comes.
Gather the flowers in the morning, in full sun if possible, and use them before they close up in the evening. It is a diuretic and they contain the vitamins A , C and K. Add the salad leaves to other milder salad plants, the leaves also work great in a sandwich. The tea is not everyone’s ‘cup of tea’ but personally I love it and mixed with other weeds makes it a really refreshing and invigorating cuppa. Other uses for dandelion includes putting them into jams, coated in tempura batter and fried with other tempura veggies, or strip the flower petals and sprinkle over salads. Or toss into stir frys.
Cleavers or Goosegrass
A great children’s plant, which clings mercilessly to trousers and coats. Cleavers is a refreshing, cleansing tonic. It is great to include in a detoxifying spring tea along with nettles, dandelion leaves and plantain. Consuming this type of tea blend regularly is usually very energising. Best picked in April and May when they are young and tender. They are easy to pick because there is so much of it and you can safely use large quantities of it.
Break off in handfuls, wash them and they can be juiced raw or cooked like spinach before the hard round seeds appear. Chop and add to spring soups, throw into stir-fry. The seeds can be made into delicious coffee in August, they are the little green sticky balls when they are ripe. Just a word of warning.. If you are taking blood- thinning medication, like Warfarin, then seek medical advice if you are consuming Cleavers regularly, as Cleavers may contain vitamin K which is a vitamin that helps blood clot.
Happy drinking and Earth Day! Lets keep our world wonderful. It is relying on us!