Thursday, October 7, 2010
Strawberry Harvest, Round 2
Strawberries are pretty much done this season, I know. But if you haven't already, it's not too late to harvest the leaves!
You can start picking strawberry leaves in the spring and throughout the summer; the younger, tender leaves have the best flavor. But if you're like me and you forgot or didn't know, you can still get a harvest in before the frost kills off the plants. Just take some scissors out to the garden and clip off just the leaves. Make sure to leave some behind so the plant can sustain itself - don't pick it bare! - and don't take the leaves with mold or spots on them. Of course it goes without saying that you should not be harvesting leaves that've been sprayed with pesticides, chemical fertilizers, or other poisons.
Once you've got a bowlful, bring 'em inside. Run a few inches of cool water in the sink, and rinse the leaves carefully, using your fingers to go over each one and remove all the dirt, grit, little bugs, etc. Once they're all clean, you can use them right away or dry them for winter. To dry them, either spread them out in your dehydrator or spread them in a dark, dry place with plenty of circulation. Once dried, store them in a Ziploc baggie in the pantry or somewhere dark. Make sure they are fully dried. Fresh is okay and fully dried is okay, but when only partially dried, the leaves are toxic!
To use the strawberry leaves, make a tea. You can put a tablespoon of the dried leaves (or a bunch of fresh leaves) into a cup and top it off with boiling water, letting it steep for 15-20 minutes. Or, for maximum health benefits, put one tablespoon dried leaves per cup of boiling water in a jar, and let it steep overnight. You can drink this cold the next day, or reheat it if you like. A bit of raw honey boosts the health value and also makes it a little sweeter.
So why do you want to do this? Well, strawberry leaf tea is pretty tasty. But it's also packed to the gills with vitamins and minerals, including vitamin C, iron, and calcium - making it an ideal tonic for just about everyone, especially pregnant women and nursing mamas (for the latter, it's also said to boost milk production). It soothes the digestive system and works as an excellent natural remedy for indigestion and diarrhea, and some use it as a mild remedy for arthritis and eczema.
Flu season is right around the corner, which means that anything packed with vitamin C is a good idea to boost your immune system. Once it freezes here, I'll be harvesting rosehips and drying citrus peels too, for even more powerful C-food.
Isn't it cool how nature gives you what you need, right when you need it?