Homemade "Lemon Green" Tea

Hi Folks,

Yet again, it's been forever since I posted. I actually have several beginnings of posts, but I never managed to finish one. Honestly, I don't seem to have a lot to say - “I made soap, cut soap, wrapped soap, made lip balms, made body balms, tweaked my label fonts yet again, and made some more soap. And then some more lip balms, and did a craft fair. Caleb is keeping up with all the animals, we have another calf, hardly any garden to speak of, and neither of us really do housework anymore except Caleb does the laundry. The boys are good, driving me crazy sometimes with arguing, and Liam started school again this month.” The same old same old, who's interested in that?!  So I keep waiting for there to be something “worthy” of posting.

Also - to be honest, since I started using Instagram, I've been doing basically micro-blogs over there – it's still not actually blogging here on my website, but at least its something, right? And I like that I can incorporate lots of pictures. So, if you haven't already, find me on IG, I haven't just fallen off the face of the earth :-) BUT – I am going to try to start doing medium-length blog posts here that are the expanded version of my IG posts. I realized that, while I lack inspiration for these "real" blog posts, I seem to find plenty to talk about on Instagram, and surely I can find a way to talk a little more about those things, but over here!

So – one of my most popular IG posts recently was about our homemade tea! We make “Lemon Green” tea (disclaimer: no lemon, no green tea) from ingredients entirely on our farm or foraged nearby, and it's so simple, many of you can probably do it yourself. The main ingredient is fig leaves! They make a wonderful tea (no caffeine!), it's very similar in taste to a green tea. You can collect the leaves two ways – green off the tree and then dried; or at frost, as they fall off the tree naturally-dried. We prefer the second way, I think the green-dried leaves taste more like grass, and the already-dried more like hay – if that makes any sense :-) They're both good, though, just personal preference! As a side note, there has been a bit of research into using the fig leaf tea for diabetes, and it appears to be pretty effective. The study I've seen referenced found that insulin needs were lowered by 14% by drinking one cup a day! Not too bad...

The second ingredient (of two) is sumac berries! You've probably seen the bushes in ditches and fields, with the upright or droopy red spear-head clusters all fall. These are made of tiny berries, covered in a red powder that's very sour – the other use for them is sumac lemonade, or sumac-ade. Also, they are a key component of Za'atar seasoning, if you've ever used that. For tea, I just collect up all the single berries that fall off – we collect a 5 gallon bucket or two of the clusters in the fall, and with general handling, or a little deliberately-rough handling from the boys, there are a bunch of loose berries in the bottom. I just add these to the fig leaves, and ta-da!! Lemon green tea :-) My personal proportions are about 1.3 cups of crushed fig leaves with ½ cup of sumac berries, and then use maybe 1/4 cup to a French Press-ful (quart or so of boiling water).

There are some finer points to using sumac – to make the sumac-ade, you are always directed to soak the clusters in cold water. I never knew why, it seemed less efficient that using hot water in terms of getting the flavor out, so of course I tried it with hot to see what happened. It was still good, but not at all the same – it was much more like an iced tea with lots of lemon added. Then I read up about sumac in a foraging book, and the light came on. The stems of sumac are loaded with tannins, so the cold water directions are to avoid leaching the tannins and having it taste like tea! Cold water will keep it tasting like lemonade. By all means, if you like lemony iced tea, give it a try and you'll probably love it. For the fig leaf tea, I prefer the lighter taste of no tannins, and so by using the loose berries only, no stems, I can steep the tea in boiling water as usual without any bitterness. Also, you want to collect the clusters as soon as you can after they're mature – unless it's a very dry fall. The reason for this is simply that the rain will wash off the flavoring powder, so if you're in a drought this is the silver lining :-) Two years ago, we were able to harvest well into November because it never rained that entire fall.

If you do get ahold of some fig leaves, experiment with different flavors. I've also enjoyed adding mint leaves (I dubbed it “Not a Figment - of Your Imagination” tea – ha ha!!), and I'm sure a variety of other herbal additions would be great as well. I view the fig as a base tea, great for adding some body to herbal teas that can be fairly light-flavored (chamomile?). If you know anyone with fig trees, they probably don't mind if you gather some of the fallen leaves in the fall – especially if you gift them with some tea afterwards!

If you have any questions, drop me a line – we love this tea, and I'm happy to clear up anything I may not have explained well enough :-) Til next time!


Sumac Ade

As a kid I was really into foraginging and gleaning. Sumac Ade was something I really liked to make. I think this Autumn I shall make some again. Thank you.


My kids love to forage too, I can even get them to pick volunteer tomatoes from the compost piile if I call it "foraging" :-)

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