KNOTS & BOLTS
[ FORAGING ]
Two Wild Winter Teas
Winter must have been hard for the first human
inhabitants of the Northeast as long months
passed with few fresh plant foods.
Foraging is difficult in the winter, but it is not
impossible. Occasional fruits still cling to vines
and branches. Snow-free spots may make it possible to find nuts. Patches of thawed ground or
ice-free water allow access to roots or rhizomes.
But one certainly couldn’t live on such a meager
harvest. Winter meals in earlier centuries and
millennia must have included hunted meats and
stored foods that were gathered and dried during
the warmer months.
Also likely on the menu was a selection of
winter teas. How important these teas must have
been – a vital source of nutrients and a hand- and
heart-warming solace on winter nights.
A number of tree species can be harvested to
brew into tea; this article will discuss two of the
most accessible. Between them, a winter tea can
be found in nearly any patch of woods.
The first – and the best-tasting – is a tea
brewed from the fresh twigs of either black birch
(Betula lenta) or yellow birch (Betula alleghanien-
sis). Brewing this tea requires a large number of
Above: Some foods are difficult to forage for in the winter, but there are plenty of white pine needles still available
for tea. Inset: Yellow and black birch teas.