With spring here, Ranae and I have been outside a great deal lately. The cool evenings are a great time to sit in our favorite lawn chairs and enjoy a glass of tea. It’s a time spent together discussing the plans for the summer and improvements we intend to make around this little homestead.
The guinea eggs have been ordered and we are anxious for their arrival. One night this past week we were sitting outside and discussing how nice it will be to have the guineas running around foraging for bugs, etc. We discussed the various types of bugs the guineas would be searching for and what plants if any they would consume.
The conversation turned to our own interest and experiences with foraging. I was first exposed to foraging for food when I went through the Army’s survival training. I always found it amazing how many plants are edible if you simply know where to look.
Here in Texas there are countless plants that can not only save your life, but are also good tasting as well as good for you. Wide carrots; berries; teas and the like are ever abundant here in the part of Texas where I live. If you live in Texas, I highly suggest you look at the website http://foragingtexas.com for some of the best information available anywhere on the topic.
Our foraging was intensified when we lived in Guatemala as missionaries. We mostly searched for ingredients to make teas. Here in Texas, we have a great resource for making teas. Yaupon Holly is one of the best ingredients ever. You’ve all seen this somewhat invasive plant that never seems to die. It’s a constant battle to keep it under control (at least around my property it is) but it has great nutritional value too.
Yaupon Holly has a scientific name “Ilex vomitoria”. This name comes from the Latin word meaning “to vomit”. That’s because if you eat the berries you will empty your stomach very quickly and with a significant degree of force. Birds love the berries, but they will definitely make humans sick.
In native American cultures the berries along with the leaves were used to create a drink used in “purification” rituals. It was referred to as the “Black Drink” since it produced violent vomiting. The idea was to purify the participant of the ceremony by inducing this rather unpleasant outcome.
The leaves, on the other hand, are where the gold mine is. Dried leaves make a great tea. The leaves contain more caffeine by weight than both coffee beans and green tea and it has the highest caffeine content of any plant native to North America. Yaupon Holly is also very high in antioxidants and less bitter than green tea. During the Civil War, southerners substituted Yaupon Holly tea for coffee and black tea, routinely.
The best method of making this delicious tea is to dry the leaves for about two weeks. You should let them air dry as this opens up the pores in the leaves and allows much more nutritional value to be gained. Don’t use a dehydrator. After the leaves have dried for at least two weeks, you can roast them to give a different taste if you like. This takes some practice though, as if you let the leaves get too blackened they will become very bitter. I rarely roast ours.
Once dried, you’re ready to use the leaves to make a very delicious tea that is high in caffeine and vitamin C. I think you will like it.
Until next week…
Vern Six is a freelance computer programmer and entrepreneur. He is a United States Army certified survival expert and former Christian missionary. Vern has been a hobby blogger for nearly five years and now has his “According to Vern” blog published in numerous newspapers around the world. You can learn more about Vern by visiting his website at http://AccordingToVern.com