Wintergreen tea pick

18 Jan

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We are having a January thaw right now, much of the  accumulated snow has melted this week, though in most of the surrounding forest there is still plenty of snow except for areas like this one where some jack pine trees have been recently cut and the forest floor close to the stumps are snow free and Wintergreen leaves are now visibly available to those who may choose to partake in gathering some fresh leaves for tea.

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Here is a closer look at the Teaberry plant aka wintergreen, (Gaultheria procumbens) its small round red leaves are noticeable on the south-side of the stump. Now the majority of the wintergreen leaves in these woods where the trees are still standing has (green) leaves beneath the snow, though in open areas like this the leaves are often red which makes for a pink colored tea of good flavour.

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Marguerit is also here today to join in the gathering of these small leaves with a big taste. I mentioned earlier on in a post in November the flavour of wintergreen doesn’t reveal itself right away, you need a little patience as it takes a couple days of fermentation for the flavour to fully appear. I use a few handfuls of cleaned leaves placed in a jar add a litre of boiling spring water and close the lid for 2 days. After I may drink the strained tea cold or reheated, the leaves from the ferment can be used a second time by just steeping them again with newly boiled water or they can be dried and packaged for later use. cheers

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4 Responses to “Wintergreen tea pick”

  1. ediblethings January 20, 2014 at 9:24 am #

    What a wonderful way to get in the first forage of the year. Does this wintergreen taste vaguely medicinal?
    I am wondering, because I vaguely remember being offered wintergreen cough sweets by my grandmother when I was a child. I can’t really find them any more, so I don’t know if this was a brand name or one of the ingredients.

    • 1left January 20, 2014 at 10:09 pm #

      Yes, Oil of Wintergreen (Methyl salicylate) has some minty-like heat to it and is used in many medicinal products, especially muscle rubs along with other goods such as mouthwash, toothpaste, chewing gum, wintergreen candy and cough drops etc I suspect for the best part of the last hundred years Methyl salicylate has been made synthetically for most commercial products.
      It is possible your grandmother did have cough sweets made from a natural source of wintergreen though, such as sweet birch bark, meadowsweet or a Gaultheria as they were quite popular at country markets many years ago though I suspect it would be quite a task to find any made from one of these plants today unless we find some of the old recipes and make them ourselves. In one of Euell Gibbons books from the 1960s there is a recipe for a (wintergreen turkish delight) that I’m tempted to try, as for Wintergreen tea it is considered quite safe for most people, but some caution is advised with (oil of wintergreen) in concentrated doses as it can be toxic and folks with asthma or aspirin allergies should avoid oil of wintergreen altogether..

      • ediblethings January 21, 2014 at 5:57 am #

        Ah thank you for such an in depth reply! I appreciate you taking the time to give me the Latin name, and all the other facts. I’m pleased that I wasn’t misrememebering those sweets, they were definitely a bit menthol-tasting.
        It’s funny what seemingly innocuous things will trigger memories, isn’t it?
        I think that the Turkish delight sounds lovely. I guess care is needed in order for the wintergreen to remain subtle.

  2. 1left January 21, 2014 at 10:09 pm #

    The appearance of old memories are amusing indeed as often all the cells present to the original experience have been replaced yet some recollected remnants pop into the present very unexpected at times, especially with scent and taste experiences. In this case it was helpful in coloring in a little more detail on these memorable little wintergreen plants. thanks

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