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10/16/2016 5:32 pm  #1

Wintergreen Tea

I've been chewing on wintergreen leaves since I was a kid, always wondered what a tea would taste like, finally got around to it today....

A quick google search will give you the basic "recipe" I use quotations because there aren't really any numbers here, everything's eye-balled:
-I started by harvesting two handfuls of the best tasting leaves (thick, dark green and waxy) 
-The recipe said to place the whole leaves in a jar filled with non-chlorine treated water for 3 days wrapped in a tea towel....I'm not one to follow recipes too closely or prepare before cooking, so I cut up most of my leaves and placed them in a half-empty bottle of Dasani spring water (roughly 500ml) and promptly forgot about it for a week.....
-When I checked up on the bottle today, condensation had formed inside the tightly sealed bottle which lead me to assume some type of fermentation had in fact occurred (this is a good thing).
-I emptied the bottle and boiled the water/leaves before straining directly into a mug.

To my surprise, I had an edible tea on my hands! without any added ingredients, this was a pleasant, spearamint-like tea.  It appeared light brown in the mug, smelled great, had a sweet start and slightly bitter finish but totally drinkable.  The tea apparently has the same active ingredients as aspirin and natives have used it medicinally for eons...
The ease with which I was able to do this certainly encourages me to try it on a trip and I thought I'd post it here in case anyone else had thought of trying it and wasn't sure it was safe etc....


10/20/2016 9:04 am  #2

Re: Wintergreen Tea

Thanks Kurt, I may very well try this sometime! Out of curiosity, have you eaten the berries as well, and if so how do they taste? 


10/20/2016 9:34 am  #3

Re: Wintergreen Tea

Thanks for sharing! I'll definitely be trying next season. 


10/20/2016 10:53 am  #4

Re: Wintergreen Tea

The berries also have a wintergreen taste, though less intense than the leaves.  They are a bit mealy in texture, but not unpleasantly so.  They dry well.
My grandfather swore by wintergreen as a medicinal plant, and always said that the roots were the best part and had the best flavour.


10/20/2016 11:31 am  #5

Re: Wintergreen Tea

During our trip in Woodland Caribou P.P this July we ran into this great plant several times.  Although it was FAR too hot and humid to make a tea out of it (and not knowing how to properly prepare it), I was using the leaves in my water.  It made for a great taste during the days.
Curious though, I haven't seen/smelled this much during my trips through Algonquin!  Where have you fellas noticed it? (Portages? Campsites?)


10/20/2016 1:02 pm  #6

Re: Wintergreen Tea

I doubt you had fermentation...but most certainly evaporation and condensation on the bottle.  You would need sugar and yeast for fermentation...I expect there is quite possibly sugar in the leaves but not so likely that there was adequate or appropriate yeast present.  So you likely had a pleasant Wintergreen (or teaberry) tea!  It would make for an interesting addition to some IPA though!

Also, the active ingredient is similar to, but not identical to aspirin and can be fatal (although you would need to ingest a TON of the leaves or 5ml of the pure oil to kill you, so the risk is exceptionally small).  It is Methyl salicylate in wintergreen oil and acetylsalicylic acid in aspirin but each of them produces salicylic acid as a metabolite...so when either drug gets into your liver, your liver breaks them down and one of the resulting products is the same.  It is a mild analgesic - thus the reason for use by native communities.  A couple references below for your edification...

I love using the sources of nature like this so kudos to you for giving it a shot!  It is so interesting how much native peoples understood about their environment that we no longer have that information passed and shared as commonly today in spite of living in the information age!

Wintergreen or Teaberry - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Methyl_salicylate
Aspirin - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aspirin


10/20/2016 5:33 pm  #7

Re: Wintergreen Tea

JB wrote:

Curious though, I haven't seen/smelled this much during my trips through Algonquin!  Where have you fellas noticed it? (Portages? Campsites?)

Wintergreen likes sandy, acidic soil and does well in partial shade to sunny conditions.  It's often found in mature coniferous woods.  It is certainly common on the east side of APP, which does provide these conditions - perhaps less so in the southern and western parts of the park. Can't say I've ever smelled it when I was standing up, except when I've picked some. Down on your hands and knees you'd probably detect the aroma when the leaves are new or when it's in flower (the flowers have a wintergreen smell too).


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