Sunday, June 24, 2012

DIY Strawberry and Blueberry Leaf Teas!

While many gardeners have been enjoying fresh, organic strawberries and blueberries from their own back yards this summer, most fail to realize that there is value not only in the fruit of the plant, but it the leaves as well. Blueberry leaf and strawberry leaf teas are sold in vitamin and health food stores nationwide.

Benefits of the Blueberry Leaf:
  • High in antioxidants
  • Hypoglycemic (blood sugar regulator)
  • Prevents urinary tract infection
Benefits of Strawberry Leaf:
  • Improves digestion (may help alleviate an upset stomach, and reduce symptoms of nausea, bloating, stomach cramps and diarrhea)
  • May help with arthritis pain
  • Contains Iron, Calcium, and Vitamin C
But why buy months-old tea bags when you can have fresh, organic loose leaf tea for free! I'll show you how I harvested my leaves and dried them for later use. Be sure that you only do this if your plants are pesticide free.

Here are our strawberry and blueberry plants. A little close, I know, but we didn't know any better!

I started off with the strawberry leaves. In order to get the best flavor, you want to pick the smallest leaves you can find. Make sure that the leaves you pick have no yellowing, wilting, bugs, or bug bites. Only pick the leaves that are perfectly perfect! 

Oh no!

Oh yes!

The leaves come in bunches of 3. Just pluck the stem, being careful not to pull up the roots. If one of the 3 leaves has a bite out of it, just pluck the whole thing and throw away the bad leaf.

Keep picking until you have a nice big bowl of leaves (and maybe a few bonus berries :P). Keep in mind that the leaves will shrink during the drying process.

The same rules apply when picking the blueberry leaves. The smaller, the better. No bugs and no yellow leaves. These leaves will take much longer to pick because they are much smaller. While most strawberry leaves are no smaller than a quarter and come in bunches of three, the blueberry leaves are picked one at a time, and you'll find leaves as small as your fingernail. These are the leaves you want to pick because they'll have the best flavor.

Start off by picking the teeny tiniest leaves you can until you're absolutely sick of picking all these tiny leaves and you're wondering why you're wasting your time. Then, move onto leaves that are a little bit bigger to fill your bowl. Trust me, once you start picking the bigger leaves, you will not go back to picking smaller ones.

After 234534503 millennia of picking leaves (or approximately 35 minutes) I ended up with this modest bowl of leaves.

Enlisting the aid of a furry friend is not recommended. They tend to be quite unhelpful.

Rinse off your strawberry leaves and dry them. I used a salad spinner.

Spread your strawberry leaves evenly on a cookie sheet.

Do the same for your blueberry leaves.

Bake your leaves on the lowest possible setting until they dry up. You'll know they're dry when they're crunchy. The strawberry leaves took 15 minutes to dry at 170 degrees.

The blueberry leaves took 40 minutes to dry because they were on the top rack. They shrink less than the strawberry leaves and become a pretty olive color.

Now all that's left to do is store the loose leaves into jars. The tea you've just made will be very mild in flavor. In order to boost the flavor of the tea you can add dried fruit to the leaves. Dried strawberry is craaazy expensive, but I lucked out on finding some dried blueberries at a local grocery store.

I put a small handful of blueberries in with my blueberry leaves and shook the jar.

If you want to make fancy shmancy jar lids, print out pictures of your fruit, trace the jar lids, cut them out and glue the photos to the lids.

You're done! Enjoy your free, organic loose leaf tea!

Kitteh not included.

Disclaimer: This information is not intended to treat, diagnose, or prescribe in any way, and is for informational purposes only. I do not take responsibility for your experience in using it.  I trust that you will consult a licensed healthcare professional  when appropriate, especially for pregnant/nursing women, anyone over 60 years of age,  anyone under the age of 12, and anyone with a serious medical condition.


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