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Posts Tagged ‘Comptonia peregrina

Sweet-fern (Comptonia peregrina (L.) Coult.)

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Last weekend, we went on a short hike to the lake to collect some dried Sweet-fern, with the goal of making Sweet-fern sun tea.  To make the tea, fresh or dry leaves of Sweet-fern are steeped in a jar in the sun for three hours.

Unfortunately, the wind was too cold to allow the spring sun to warm the jar.  So I collected the dry leaves and, on Sunday afternoon, I enjoyed a cup of fragrant Sweet-fern tea, made the usual way, steeped in boiling water.

Later in the spring or summer, I’ll be trying the sun tea method again.

Sweet-fern(Comptonia peregrina (L.) Coult.) is a small rounded shrub with fernlike green leaves found in dry rocky waste areas, clearings or pastures.  The leaves are simple and alternate, long, narrow and deeply lobed.  The shrub sometimes grows as a weed in blueberry fields.

Sweet-fern is called Comptonie voyageus in French, since peregrina means traveller. The generic name is after Henry Compton, a 17th century Bishop of London who was a patron of botany.

The fruit is a green burr enclosing 1-4 nutlets.  These can be harvested in June or July while still tender.

Sweet-fern is a member of the Sweet Gale family.  The plant is very fragrant, particularly when crushed, due to glands on the leaves and twigs.  The tea made from the leaves is also fragrant.  To make the tea, use 1 tsp dried or 2 tsp fresh leaves per cup of water.  Remember, to always be absolutely certain of the identification before you try eating or drinking anything in the wild.


Directions for Sweet-fern sun tea

8 tsp of fresh chopped leaves

1 quart of clean fresh cold water in a jar

cap and place in sun three hours until water is dark

strain and serve



Sweet-fern sun tea

Comptonia peregrina (L.) Coult.


to quench the thirst of a traveller

and reward a hike too far


steep sweet-fern

in the solar flare


gives up fragrance to air

and to water in a sun-drenched jar



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

Written by jane tims

April 28, 2012 at 6:52 am

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