A different kind of tea
I'm delighted to offer a different kind of cuppa for #nationalteaday as I'm allergic to the usual stuff*. Instead I'm exploring a different kind of tea via those found in Henriette Kress's Practical Herbs 1.
We're quite early in the foraging season which combined with our slower than usual start this year has limited the selection of herbs and teas I could make today. However, I found one standout candidate for me to try... nettles.
Nettles are currently the bane of my allotment and garden, so there's nothing better in my book than to make my foes useful. Nettle soup is quite a well-known use for them, so why make tea instead?
Kress really caught my attention with: "The green parts of nettles in teas... are generally strengthening... A mineral-rich nettle tea can speed recuperation from flu, surgery or broken bones." She goes on to say, "Juiced nettles can help with joint pain, too." She also talks about how nettles can help reduce swelling and inflammation. I have all three, so nettles sound like just what I need to try.
Kress's tea recipe calls for 2-3 teaspoons of dried nettles, but as it's too early in the season to have any, I armed myself with a long gauntlet and picked enough tops to fill my special herb tea pot to the brim instead. This has worked well with similar looking herbs like lemon balm in the past, and proved to be just fine this time. Alternatively, I could have used her recipe for juice, which is fresh nettles blended with a little water, with 1-2 tablespoons taken per day.
Back to the tea. Steeped for 10 minutes and served piping hot in my special cup, it proved to be a refreshing drink, reminiscent of spinach in flavour and coloured a delicate yellowy green. Not a bad result from clearing this season's new growth in my wild and woolly lawn. I later found a couple of sprigs of new-season lemon balm added another layer of interest and flavour, and it worked well as a cooling summer drink. This is the joy of having the hottest, most summery April day for decades, it leads to further experimentation.
Having drunk my tea, will I be making more from Kress's book? The answer is yes... and no. I now feel comfortable enough to make something from the more familiar plants she describes as and when I have a specific need. It's too soon to tell whether today's tea has helped me and of course I'm only one person, not a scientific trial of hundreds of people. If nettle tea helps in the longer term it'll be nice to ditch the constant pain, physio, massaging and icing needed with my swollen hand.
However, I'm not ready to launch full-blown into herbalism yet. Whilst Kress's book is packed with information, I still feel uncomfortable to go down this route whole heartedly. In some ways this also fits with Kress's own philosophy; a key message from her throughout the book is to allow the body to build its own resistance without the constant dosage of herbs**. So I won't be using them on a regular basis, just like I don't usually reach for a magic pill to cure my ills.
Practical Herbs 1 (and 2) are published by Aeon Books and each currently retails at $30 (around the £21 mark).
* = I know, how terribly un-British of me 😉
** = the publishers also make it clear that the book is not intended to replace the advice of a health care professional