Is it tea time on your survival homestead?
If you haven’t started growing, foraging, and drinking herbal teas on your homestead, you are really missing out. Herbal teas have unique flavors, and many of them are delicious. Some herbal teas are reputed to have medicinal properties, too. The majority of these teas are easy to grow or forage, and preparing tea from herbs is quite fun as well. And if you’re going to drink something besides that perpetual pot of lukewarm coffee in your kitchen, it might as well be herbal tea from your own homestead, right?
Let’s look at twenty great herbal teas every homesteader should grow or forage.
Great Herbs To Grow For Tea
Here are ten great herbs that are easy to grow in your garden that make perfect teas. Most of these herbs have other uses, too, so they’ll come in handy in your kitchen.
Every homesteader should have a patch of mint in their garden. Mint is arguably the easiest herb to grow; in fact, if you’re not careful, that patch of mint can overtake your entire garden. It is common to find mint growing wild virtually anywhere people are. There are different types of mint with very different flavors, too, such as apple mint and peppermint. Experiment with different kinds to see which flavors you like the best.
Pick and save mint leaves to make tea. This herb is a great candidate for oven drying, or to dry in a dehydrator, since it has a great deal of water in it. Mint tea is delicious served with a teaspoon of freshly squeezed lemon, or a teaspoon of honey. People often use mint tea to treat indigestion, or other types of stomach discomfort.
Here is a great video demonstrating how to dry mint and make mint tea:
Lemon balm is a close relative of mint, and its leaves appear very similar. However, lemon balm is not as invasive as mint, and isn’t as prone to spread like wildfire across your herb garden. It is a good candidate for growing in a pot, too. Lemon balm smells and tastes true to its namesake; take a whiff of its leaves and you’d swear you were smelling a lemon. This herb also makes a delicious, flavorful tea.
Harvest lemon balm leaves just like you would mint; you can dry them the same way as well. Lemon balm tea is perfectly served with a teaspoon of honey and a dash of lemon zest. The herb is also reputed to have anti-depressant properties. It is a great tea to drink at night, right before you go to bed.
Chamomile is one of the most popular herbal teas out there; go to any grocery store, and you’ll undoubtedly find a box of chamomile tea on the shelves. Chamomile is an easy herb to grow and preserve on your homestead, too. It produces beautiful, daisy-like flowers that are a joy to look at as well.
Save chamomile flower heads and leaves for drying. Tea made from chamomile has a delightful aroma and unique flavor; some people believe the taste is reminiscent of oats and honey. People often drink a cup of chamomile tea in the evening, as it is reputed to help bring about deep, restful sleep. It is delicious any time of the day, however.
Here is a great video showing how to preserve chamomile for use later as tea:
Echinacea is often available in supermarkets and health food stores as an herbal supplement; it also makes a great tea and beautiful ornamental plant. Gardeners know this popular herb as the purple coneflower, an old perennial plant that is found in most garden beds. It is easy to grow and propagate, and also makes a delicious tea.
Harvest mature echinacea plants, preferably those that are two to three years old, then remove and wash the roots; the roots are what you will save and use to make the tea. Dry the roots in your oven or a dehydrator for several hours, then grind them into powder with your mortar and pestle.
Echinacea is a delicious tea, and many believe that the herb boosts the immune system. Save the seeds from echinacea’s beautiful flower heads that you harvest, and plant them in your garden next season; that way, you’ll always be able to enjoy some home grown echinacea tea.
Here is a video of an herb farmer harvesting echinacea roots for later use:
Sage is another great herb to grow in your garden. It is a beautiful plant with many culinary uses. It is a very hardy perennial; many varieties grow to become small bushes, and the base of their stems become almost woody. This herb comes in many different sizes and color variations, however. Sage also makes a wonderful, aromatic tea.
Gather the leaves from your sage plants, and dry them in your oven or dehydrator; you can also hang bunches of sage to dry, and discard the stems afterwards. Tea made from sage is delightfully bitter, and leaves a refreshing lemon aftertaste. This is also a great herb to combine with standard black and green teas as well; its addition helps add a little zest to what would otherwise be a boring cup of morning tea.
Do you have roses in your gardens? They are beautiful to look at. And you can also use them to make some delicious rose hip tea. Rose hips are the seed pods that appear on roses after they are done flowering. Rose hips are packed with flavor, and rich in vitamin C. They are easy to gather up, and make a flavorful herbal tea.
Gather up your rose hips in the late fall; November is a great month to do it. Preparing them for use is a little bit of work. Remove the stems and tops from each rose hip. Cut the rose hips open, and remove the seeds, which are bitter. Take the fleshy parts of the rose hips that remain, and then dry them. Once the rose hips are dried, they are ready for use as a tea.
Here is a great video showing how to prepare rose hips for use in tea:
Rose hip tea tastes delicious, and every tea enthusiast should grow and dry a supply for themselves. If you don’t have fresh roses of your own, you can also check with your neighbors; harvesting rose hips does not harm the plant at all. Rose hips are also easy to forage in the wild, too. Finally, if you do have roses, make sure you also save and dry the petals; they make a delicious tea as well.
Bee balm is a hardy perennial native flower that is found in most garden beds. This plant is a favorite of butterflies, humming birds, and yes, bees; for that alone it is worth having around. It has been cultivated for a long time, so it now comes in many sizes and colors. Bee balm is in the mint family, and it shares mint’s hardiness, and its ability to grow and spread through your garden if left unchecked. Like mint, it also makes a delicious tea.
Gather up the leaves and feathery flowers of bee balm for tea. They can be dried in your oven or a dehydrator. Bee balm tea has a complex flavor, with hints of citrus. It is high in antioxidants, and reputed to have anti-inflammatory properties as well. In any case, it is a delicious tea, and growing this herb will beautify your homestead and keep the bees and butterflies happy as well.
You probably have a bottle of ground ginger in your spice cabinet. The herb is used to provide zest to a variety of popular food dishes. It also makes a delicious tea. If you live in the southern united states, you can grow ginger year round; Northern gardeners can grow it indoors or in greenhouses, and harvest the roots whenever they want, too. This spice also makes a delicious tea.
Growing ginger is similar to growing root vegetables like potatoes. Plant the root, let it thrive, and when you dig it up later, you will find the plant has produced more of the root.
Here is a great video demonstrating how to grow and harvest ginger in your back yard:
Once you harvest ginger, you can cut it up, and then dry it in your oven or dehydrator. Grind it down in your mortar and pestle, and then use it to make a delicious, unique tea. Ginger is another great choice to add to black tea for additional flavor, or to combine with other herbal teas.
Lemon grass is another great herb to add to your garden. Since it is a grass, it will add unique shape and structure to your herb garden; it’s nice to grow herbs with different sizes, shapes and colors. Lemon grass is also a natural mosquito repellant, so having some in your garden, or in pots on your patio, can help keep those bugs at bay. Lemon grass makes a great herbal tea, too. Like lemon balm, this herb has a delicious citrus flavor that is delightful in tea.
Clip and gather the flat blades of grass for your tea; try to avoid the stem tubes. Lemon grass is hardy once established, so it will grow back after you cut it. This herb is a great candidate for hang drying, and bunches of lemon grass drying in your kitchen will make your house smell terrific. The lemon flavor of the tea you make with this grass will only grow as you let it steep in the water.
Rosemary is another great herb to grow in your garden. This evergreen herb can sometimes be hard to get established in your garden. However, once it is firmly rooted, rosemary will eventually grow into a hardy shrub. Rosemary also makes a great herbal tea with a strong flavor.
Gather rosemary stems and leaves for tea. This is another herb you should hang dry; bunches of rosemary hanging in your home will impart a delightful aroma. Cut the dried stems into smaller pieces that are easy to store; you don’t have to crush rosemary for use in tea.
Here is a great video demonstrating how to dry rosemary at home:
Rosemary tea is best served with a teaspoon of honey. Herbalists prize this tea, since it is reputed to have several medicinal properties; many claim it serves as an anti-depressant, improves the skin, and aids in cognition as well. The tea is delicious and unique, so make sure you have a few rosemary plants growing in your herb garden.
Hedgerow Harvest: Great Herbs to Forage for a Wild Cup of Tea
It’s great to have a garden full of herbs that you can use it tea. However, there are many great plants that grow wild that make great tea as well. Some of them may be growing in your yard right now! Foraging wild plants for tea is fun, and it’s free, so every homesteader should do it. Many of these teas are delicious, too.
Before you decide to forage, make sure you are completely confident identifying wild plants. Purchase a good field guides for medicinal or edible wild plants; these will aid you in identifying the herbs you’re searching for. If possible, you should also try to take a class on foraging, or accompany an experienced forager to learn the ropes before you go it alone. Never harvest a plant for use if you cannot positively identify it.
Once you are ready to go foraging, here are ten great wild plants that you can gather to make delicious herbal teas.
Dandelions are probably the least appreciated plants of all time. Most homeowners look at dandelions as an invasive weed; some people actually pay lawn services to remove them from their yards. However, nearly every part of a dandelion is edible; you can even make wine out of dandelion flowers. And dandelions also make a delicious tea, too.
Dandelion tea is quite strong, and its flavor is reminiscent of coffee. To prepare the tea, gather as many of the roots as you can dig up. It helps to have a shovel or some sort of tool to help you get these roots out of compacted soil. Once you have a decent supply of roots on hand, wash them, remove the outer skins with a potato peeler or sharp knife, and then dry them in an oven or dehydrator.
Here is a great video showing how to gather and dry dandelion roots:
Grind up the dry root, and then use it to make your dandelion tea. It has been used in the past as a coffee substitute, and goes well with some milk and sugar added to it. The root is also reported to be an appetite stimulant when ingested, too. So don’t let those dandelions in your yard go to waste this year. Gather some dandelion roots the first chance you get, and turn them into tea.
In late summer or early fall, it isn’t uncommon to see massive stands of goldenrod blooming along the roadside. Their bright yellow flowers can liven up an otherwise ho-hum drive through the country. They also make a great, tea, too.
When goldenrod is in bloom, gather as many flowers as you can. If you find a large stand of this plant, it shouldn’t take very long. Try to gather goldenrod along quiet roads, so they won’t be tainted by exhaust. Avoid areas where road crews spray pesticides, too. Hang drying works well to preserve goldenrod. The flower heads are also great fresh in tea, too. Excessive grinding is not necessary; the flower heads can be used whole to make tea. Goldenrod tea has a slight licorice flavor, and is delicious served with a teaspoon of honey.
Mullein is another weed that is growing in nearly every yard or vacant lot nearby; most people never give its leathery leaves or tall flower stalks a second thought. However, mullein is prized as a medicinal herb across the world. It is also a great wild plant to use for tea, too.
Use the leaves as well as the flower petals for herbal tea. Dry the leaves in your oven or dehydrator if you have one. The tea has a mild aroma and unique flavor; it is great on its own, or served with a teaspoon of honey and some lemon zest. Mullein tea is reputed to be a good expectorant, so make a cup the next time you have a bad head cold. The herb is reputed to have anti-inflammatory and anti-viral properties as well. So don’t let those mullein plants in your back yard go to waste.
Black or Sweet Birch
Black birch, also called sweet birch, is a common tree across much of the northeastern United States. It has distinctive gray papery bark, even if it doesn’t stand out like it’s close cousin, the paper birch. Black birch is sometimes tapped for sap, just like sugar maples; it is also be used to make a delicious herbal tea.
Cut several handfuls of black birch twigs with a sharp knife; try to get green twigs from new growth. Once you’ve gathered the green twigs, cut them up into smaller pieces, set them in a large mason jar, place the lid on the jar, and let them steep for about 24 hours. Afterwards, strain the liquid through a cheesecloth, and discard the twigs.
When you’re ready, heat the liquid up, and then serve it teacups with a teaspoon of honey. Birch tea will have a delightful flavor, similar to wintergreen candy. Native Americans used this tea to treat fevers. In any case, its delightful aroma and taste will make for a great cup of tea.
Here is a great video that shows how to make black birch tea:
Chicory is yet another plant that was introduced to North America that spread like wildfire. If you are driving on a road somewhere and see a dandelion-like plant with blue flowers, it is the mighty chicory. While chicory is an invasive plant, it is also useful, too. This is another great candidate for a delicious herbal tea.
Chicory was used heavily as a coffee substitute during the Civil War. Even today, you can still buy coffee with chicory blended into it for the flavor. Gather your chicory roots, much like you would with dandelion plants. Wash and peel them, then grind or crush them and dry them out. Serve your chicory tea much like you would coffee.
Here is a great video demonstrating how to prepare chicory roots:
In the northeastern United States, it is not uncommon to find wild violets growing in the shady areas of you back yard. Their dark, spade-shaped leaves are pretty enough, but in late spring, their tiny lavender flowers are a delight as well. Violets are very useful plants, too; their leaves are edible, and their flowers make a delicious herbal tea.
Violets only bloom for a week or two, but when they do, they put on quite a display; the shady areas of your yard will be awash in bright blue. When they bloom, go ahead and gather the flowers. Separate the petals from the stems in your kitchen, then dry the petals in your oven or dehydrator.
Tea made from the petals is great on its own, or served with some lemon zest. The petals are high in vitamin A and C, and the tea itself is reported to be useful for treating coughs.
Here is a video that provides a great overview of violet tea:
Gingko is another herb that straddles the line between farming and foraging. Ginkgo is a tree, gingko biloba, that grows quite large, with distinctive fan-shaped leaves. It is an introduced tree, and if you don’t have one growing in your yard, you’ll have to find one in a park or other public place. Gingko is the namesake for the herbal supplement derived from this tree, that many people take to improve their memory. It is also a delicious tea.
Gather fresh leaves from a gingko tree in your yard, a forest, or a park. Dry the leaves in your oven or a dehydrator, then crush them into powder. This is a great tea to have with a bit of honey or lemon zest; it has a very mild flavor. And if you drink it regularly, you may stop misplacing your car keys all the time, too.
Staghorn sumac is a small tree that is common along roadsides of the eastern United States, where it grows in dense stands. In late summer, the tips of sumac branches will be covered with cones of velvety red berries. People often collect the berries to make sumac-ade, a lemony drink served cold. You can also make a delicious tea from them as well.
Gather five to six clusters of sumac berries, rinse them off, and then let them soak in a quart of water overnight in your refrigerator. Pour the liquid through a cheese cloth and strainer into another container, and discard the berry clusters. Heat this liquid up on your stove until it’s warm, taking care not to boil it; serve it with a teaspoon of honey. The tea will be loaded with vitamin C, and is supposed to be great for treating colds. It will have a tangy citrus flavor, and you’ll drink it for the taste alone.
Chances are you can find spruce trees growing somewhere near where you live. Even outside of their native range, it is common to see these evergreen trees planted as ornamentals, or to provide some privacy in a suburban yard. They also make a terrific, easily foraged tea.
Simply pick the new growth tips at the end of the spruce’s branches; plan on using about 8-12 for a cup of tea. Place them in your infuser, add hot water, and let them steep. A dash of cinnamon is a great complement to a cup of spruce tip tea. This tea has a strong, somewhat astringent taste.
Spruce tips are high in vitamin C, and the tea is often taken to treat the common cold. This is a great tea to make if you’re hiking or camping in an area where spruce trees are common. If they are, you’ll have an endless supply of tea for your hike!
Here is a great video demonstrating how to make spruce tip tea:
There are dense patches of blackberry plants all across North America; almost everyone has gotten scratched by blackberry thorns while crossing the briars at one point or another. Blackberries are a terrific summer treat, and can be used to make things like jams, jellies, and even wine. However, you don’t have to wait until those berries are ripe to get some use out of blackberry plants; their leaves make a delicious tea.
Gather the new growth blackberry leaves; they will be smaller than the older leaves and have a more vibrant green color. Dry them in your oven or dehydrator, then crush them into powder. This is a great tea to serve with honey, or to add to green or black tea for a bit of flavor. The leaves are loaded with vitamin C and tannins, so they are reported to be good for the immune system, and for treating mouth sores.
Tea can be a delicious treat, or an everyday pastime on your homestead. Many of these herbal teas can improve your health while they are delighting you palate as well. So what are you waiting for? Get out into your garden or the woods, and gather some herbs for tea today!