Free Tea Time

nettle tea

There are so many reasons to deal with my coffee addiction. I like it with real cream and sugar so there’s the calorie load. It interferes with my sleep and gives me the jitters. It’s also something that is never going to grow in cold, wet New England. My commitment to eating a healthier, more local, sustainable diet makes it clear that the coffee has got to go. But what to put in its place as I do love sipping something hot and delicious in the morning?

Well tea, of course! And not just any tea, but tea from my own herbs, dried and sweetened with a bit of honey from our obliging bees. As many of my herbs are perennial or gathered from the wild, the cost is negligible and the freshness can’t be beat. I gather them at their peak, dry them and then mix as needed for flavor or health (generally both!).

This morning, as I was gathering fiddleheads, I realized that the nettles were popping up. Nettles are a challenge to gather. They are covered with tiny barbs that sting and stick and hurt for a long while. Thus, you should always wear cover your arms and legs and use gloves when you harvest. I tend to harvest only the tender top leaves as the bottom leaves can be bitter.

Nettle tea delivers a whole host of health benefits, including boosting the immune system, aiding in allergy control and arthritis relief, and it has been used as a folk remedy for centuries. (Click here for a list of benefits of nettle tea.)

For best flavor, harvest the top leaves of wild nettles - and be sure to wear long sleeves and gloves to avoid their infamous sting on your skin!

For best flavor, harvest the top leaves of wild nettles – and be sure to wear long sleeves and gloves to avoid their infamous sting on your skin!

If you have a warm, dry place you can hang your nettles until the leaves are crispy. This seldom happens here in the early spring when the nettles are at their peak so I use my food dehydrator to speed the process along.

Dry lots of herbs, fruits, veggies and even grow sprouts - all without taking up an inch of counter space. One of our most popular kitchen tools for years! At Lehmans.com.

Dry lots of herbs, fruits, veggies and even grow sprouts – all without taking up an inch of counter space. One of our most popular kitchen tools for years! At Lehmans.com.

Once dry (it doesn’t take long), I store in Mason jars until I’m ready to make my tea. I like to add dried lemon balm, holy basil and violets. As summer progresses I might add clover, lemon grass, bergamot or cat nip.

Any clean, dry jar with a tight-fitting lid will do nicely for storing dried herbs.

Any clean, dry jar with a tight-fitting lid will do nicely for storing dried herbs.

Our stainless steel teastick infuser is perfect for steeping herbal tea with homegrown, dried herbs. At Lehmans.com.

Our stainless steel teastick infuser is perfect for steeping herbal tea with homegrown, dried herbs. At Lehmans.com.

When it’s time to make tea I bring my water to a boil and pour it over my selection of herbs. It may take some experimenting to come up with a blend that suits you. Aim for 1/8 cup of herbs to one cup of water. Let this steep for at least 5 -8 minutes. You want the flavor, vitamins and minerals to be extracted. I remove the herbs from my brew but not everyone does. Lightly sweeten if you like.

ohio honey

In the summer, the tea is lovely iced.

Ideal for iced summer beverages like tea, these thick, heavy, retro-inspired glasses are made right here in Ohio! At Lehmans.com.

Ideal for iced summer beverages like tea, these thick, chunky retro-inspired glasses hold a big 18 oz. and are made right here in Ohio! At Lehmans.com.

Don’t have tea growing near you? Browse our selection of locally grown teas, plus mugs and unique brewing accessories.

Kathy Harrison

About Kathy Harrison

Kathy Harrison is the author of Just in Case, Another Place at the Table, and One Small Boat. She is a national spokesperson for both foster parenting and family preparedness and has appeared on The Today Show, The Oprah Winfrey Show, and National Public Radio. She lives with her family in western Massachusetts.