nichepoetryandprose

poetry and prose about place

Eastern Teaberry (Gautheria procumbens L.)

with 2 comments


When the wind is chill and fingers are cold, what better remedy exists than a cup of tea?  After years of attending meetings where there is a box of fancy teas to choose from, I now have my own wooden ‘tea box’.  I replenish it from time to time with a new blend, but I find the old standbys are my favourites:  Red Rose, Earl Grey, and Chamomile.

When my son was little, we used to have fun making ‘tea-berry tea’.  I still go out occasionally to my patch of Gaultheria procumbens, also known as Eastern Teaberry or American Wintergreen.   A few leaves, crushed and steeped in boiling water, make a lovely, fragrant tea with a delicate green color.   In French, Eastern teaberry is le petit thé du bois (the little tea of the woods).

The leaves contain oil of wintergreen; the chemical in this oil is methyl salicylate, known for its anti-inflammatory properties and closely related to aspirin.  For this reason, use caution and only drink ‘tea-berry tea’ occasionally and if you are not sensitive to aspirin. Methyl salicylate is also found in twigs of yellow birch and it also makes a fragrant tea.  Methyl salicylate will build up an electrical charge when dried with sugar and rubbed… you can try this yourself with wintergreen-flavoured hard candies.

Warning:
1. never eat any plant if you are not absolutely certain of the identification;
2. never eat any plant if you have personal sensitivities, including allergies, to certain plants or their derivatives;
3. never eat any plant unless you have checked several sources to verify the edibility of the plant.
 

The leaves of Eastern teaberry are thick and evergreen, so they can be found this time of year.  The flowers are white, waxy, nodding, and bell-shaped.  The bright red berries are also waxy and sometimes still found in November.

Wintergreen 

                 Gaultheria procumbens L.

~

small leaves gathered, crushed

oils weep into water, pale

green tea, pink aroma

sugar and midnight sparks

sweet steam and aspirin make

undelicate my heart

~

~

Warning:
1. never eat any plant if you are not absolutely certain of the identification;
2. never eat any plant if you have personal sensitivities, including allergies, to certain plants or their derivatives;
3. never eat any plant unless you have checked several sources to verify the edibility of the plant.
 

©  Jane Tims   2012

© Jane Tims  2011

Written by jane tims

November 16, 2011 at 6:50 am

2 Responses

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  1. Jane I have seen Wintergreen later in winter! Are these just older berries still hanging on?

    Like

    Jim

    November 16, 2011 at 9:42 am

    • Hi Jim. Yes, the berries are produced in summer and will persist through the winter. Most end up food for birds and other animals. Jane

      Like

      jane tims

      November 16, 2011 at 4:46 pm


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