Creeping Charlie

Oh, Creeping Charlie (Glechoma hederacea), how this poor thing gets a bad rap. As a member of the Mint family, it spreads easily and prolifically, populating lawns, gardens and driveways with it’s bitterly-minty-smelling leaves and petite purple flowers. Try as you might, you aren’t going to get rid of Creeping Charlie, so you might as well eat it, right?

It’s easy to throw some of the leaves into a salad, whether it’s made from fresh greens, or a tabouleh-style salad. You’ll likely want to chop it into small bits since it is fairly bitter tasting, but pleasant when mixed with tastier stuff.

That teeny-tiny purple flower is surprisingly delicious, and not bitter at all. It’s a bit tedious to pick any significant amount, but fun to nibble on them while harvesting the leaves. I like to toss a few of the flowers on top of a cream cheese veggie dip, to make it pretty.

My very favorite way to use Creeping Charlie, though, is to make tea. It is very mild, with the bitter note in background and more of a sort-of-sweet flavor than you’d expect. I’ll use fresh or dried leaves and stems to make tea in the summer, and of course just dried ones in the winter.

There are a couple other plants that look very similar to Creeping Charlie – Purple Dead Nettle and Henbit. They are both in the mint family, and both are also edible. Here’s a great article with details about how to tell them apart.

Don’t you love it when a ‘problem’ plant turns out to be something really good instead?? 🙂

Tea, Tisane, and Whatnot

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I enjoy coffee, don’t get me wrong.  I like it black and strong – not French Roast, not that kind of strong.  I like the coffee we make in our stainless steel percolator on top of the gas stove.  Sometimes we forget about it and it perks a bit more than the recommended 4 minutes.  Man does that get strong!  Yes, I do enjoy that hot steaming cup of bitter beauty in the morning.

And….

I LOVE my tea.  Er, Tisane.  Well, I love tea, too.  You may or may not know that technically “Tea” is ONLY the beverage made from the plant Camillia sinensis.  The beverage we steep using other herbs, flowers, leaves, etc are technically called “Tisane”.  Blah, blah, blah…..I’m calling them all TEA.

In the spring and summer I am outside as much as possible, hiking, walking, meandering and……harvesting.  I harvest all manner of wildy food things – fiddleheads, mushrooms, wild leeks, berries, nuts, and roots.  I greatly enjoy eating ‘weeds’ out of my garden.  My most favorite things to harvest, however, are the plants that will gift me with Tea.  There are so many of them – Nettle, Plantain, Mullein, Monarda, Yarrow, Elderflower, Linden flower, and so many more.  Most of these plants can be eaten, too, and I do prepare them into yummy supper fare.

But nothing beats a Nice Cup of Tea.

Making Tea is a craft with many facets.  Firstly, there is deciding which of our herby friends will go into the teapot.  This task, in and of itself, is the bread-and-butter of all of the major tea companies whose names are in your cupboard (and mine) right now.  Making a tea blend is part science, part art, and a lot of What the Heck, Let’s just Try this and See How it Tastes.  Sometimes it’s outrageously good.  Sometimes it gets composted.  (Note to self: go easy on the dried, unroasted Dandelion root).

My favorite go-to right now is a mix of Goldenrod flowers and leaves with a bit of mint.  It has a nice green tea-like mouthfeel, and the mint gives it just a hint of sweetness.  I drink it because it tastes good, and receive a bonus of health benefits besides.  The goldenrod helps tone down allergies, and the mint helps digestion.  But mostly, it just tastes good.

Glass jars filled with tinctures, salves and herbs for tea.
My Apothecary contains many herbs and plants to make tea with.

Next, there is the ritual of heating the water, pouring it into the teapot, picking the perfect mug, pouring the tea, inhaling its steamy scent, and settling down on a comfy chair to savor it.  This ritual feels soothing to me, like the stories I read over and over to my babies….it is familiar and comforting.

Comfy Chair
Doesn’t this look like an inviting place to sip a Nice Cup of Tea?

There is nourishment and healing in this cup of Tea.  I may have chosen plants that have particular qualities – Mullein for congestion, Wild Mint for a calm tummy – and I know there are uncountable other qualities in these plants that will feed my body as well.

Lastly, there is Mystery in this cup.  Did I choose these plants, or did they choose me?   Did they call me in some curious way, wanting to be noticed and loved, wanting to be of service?  I like to think so.

Elderflower in Bloom
Elderflower in Bloom, a wonderful tea friend.