Merriwether's Immortality Elixir

Reishi Burdock Elderberry

A daily shot of a mixture of Reishi mushroom, Elderberry flower, and Burdock root tinctures keeps me healthy and knocks out anything trying to pull me down! This combines the anti-cancer, anti-viral, and anti-fungal powers of Reishi mushrooms, the immune system strengthener of elderberry, and the general adaptogen and blood/liver cleaner of burdock root.

Burdock Tinture:
1. Finely dice enough peeled, fresh burdock root to fill a quart jar 3/4 full.
2. Add enough 100 proof vodka to cover burdock root 1/2 inch deep.
3. Soak for six weeks, shaking twice daily.
4. Strain out solids, place in a tightly capped jar and store in a cool, dark place.

Elderberry Tincture:
1. Fill a 1 quart canning jar 3/4 full with fresh elderberry flowers (no stems!).
2. Add 1 tablespoon of honey, two shots of Triple Sec orange liquor and fill most of remaining space in jar with 100 proof vodka.
3. Soak for six weeks, shaking twice daily.
4. Strain out solids, place in a tightly capped jar and store in a cool, dark place.

Reishi Tincture:
1. Finely dice fresh Reishi to 3/4 fill a PINT jar.
2. Add enough 100 proof vodka to cover Reishi 1/2 inch deep.
3. Soak for six weeks, shaking twice daily.
4. Stain out the Reishi mushroom pieces and boil them for 10 minutes in water equal to the volume of vodka you used in the second step.
5. Allow water to cool, then strain out Reishi, discarding the mushroom bits.
6. Add fresh water to replace any that evaporated during boiling.
7. Combine mushroom extract water with mushroom extract vodka. Some solids will appear. You want these along with the vodka/water.
8. Place in a tightly capped jar and store in a cool, dark place.

Final Mixture:
1. Combine 2 pints Burdock tincture, 2 pints Elderberry Tincture, and 1/2 pint Reishi Mushroom tincture.
2. This is best mixed with some other drink like lemon water to help with the flavor otherwise it's kind of bitter.
3. Shake well before using. 1/2 to 1 shot a day is what I take but keep in mind I'm a 6'5", 240 lb, 49 year old male who works out and lives a somewhat insane life. I can't tell you what sort of dosage you should take.

Buy my book! Idiots Guide Foraging covers 70 of North America's tastiest and easy to find wild edibles shown with the same big pictures as here on the Foraging Texas website.

Tips on Making Wild Teas

Many wild (and landscaping!) plants can be used to make flavorful and medicinal teas. However, getting the best results requires knowing a few tricks based on plant physiology. To understand the tea one must understand the plant.

Let's start with flowers. Since the source of flavors from flowers reside on the flower's surface you can use blossoms either straight off the plant or in a dried form. Most flowers will have the best flavor right at opening which usually means mornings unless they're a night-bloomer. Pick flowers before the day's sun has baked away all their flavor. If they're to be dried make sure any morning dew or rain has evaporated away and then hang the flowers someplace to dry. Don't use a dehydrator as that'll force out much of the flower's delicate flavors...though your kitchen will probably smell great. To make flower tea, bring water to a boil, let it cool five minutes, pour it over the flowers, then let steep at least 5 minutes in a covered pot or mug (again to keep the flavors trapped in the tea).

Next up, leaves. Making tea from leaves requires aging the leaves first for best results. Remember, plant cells are enclosed in a rigid cell wall which among its duties is to prevent stuff inside the plant cell from getting out just as much as stopping stuff from outside the cell getting in. If you steep fresh leaves most of the flavors and medicinal components will remain trapped inside the leaves' cells rather than entering your tea. However, when a plant get's harvested or otherwise killed a set of enzymes inside the cell are activated and begin chewing holes in the cell wall. This is part of the mechanism used by plants to return their nutrients back to the soil when they die. After about two weeks the cell wall will have assorted holes so now when the leaves are soaked all their wonderful goodness will flow into the tea. To make tea from leaves, bring water to a boil then pour it over the dried and somewhat crumbled leaves, then let steep 3-10 minutes in a covered pot or mug. Strain out the leaves before drinking.

If you do want what's inside the leaves without the time needed to wait you must chop and grind the leaves up. This ruptures the cell walls, releasing the cellular compounds. The vitamin C found in pine needles or cleavers falls into this category. When one is suffering from scurvy one can't wait two weeks for the necessary vitamin C!

Fruit teas such as rose hip or Turk's cap fruit are similar to leaf teas in that dried fruits will give a better flavor than fresh fruits. Also, since the fruits are tougher than leaves go ahead and actually boil the fruits in the water for about five minutes then let everything cool down to a drinkable temperature. I eat the fruit afterwards but be sure to remove any rose seeds from the rose hips before drying as the fine hairs on rose seeds can cause irritation at the end of their journey through your digestive system.

Root and bark are usually the toughest parts of plants so they require vigorous boiling rather than just steeping in hot water. Boil roots/bark at least 10 minutes then remove from heat and let the tea steep and cool at least another 10 minutes before straining out the plant matter. As mentioned earlier, it's best if the plant has time to "age" a few weeks so that enzymes can break down the cell walls. If you need it right away you'll have to crush/grind the roots or bark.

Flowers for Tea:
Basswood, Barbados Cherry, Blackberry, Bottlebrush, Sweet Clover, Red Clover, White Clover, Dandelion, Dewberry, Elderberry, Goldenrod, Heal's All, Henbit, Horsemint/Lemon Beebalm, Mallow, Mullein, Parsley Hawthorn, Passionvine, Pineapple Weed, Rose, Milk Thistle, Turk's Cap, Violet, Wild Bergamot, Yarrow

Leaves for Tea:
Balloon Vine, Blackberry, Bottlebrush, Burdock, Carolina Bristle Mallow, Cleavers, Dandelion, Dewberry, Ginkgo, Goldenrod, Heal's All, Henbit, Yaupon Holly, American Holly, Horsemint/Lemon Beebalm, Lizard's Tail, Pine Needles, Loquat, Lyreleaf Sage, Mullein, Parsley Hawthorn, Passionvine, Pimpernel, Pineapple Weed, Sassafras, Stinging Nettle, Bull Thistle, Milk Thistle, Violet, Yarrow

Roots, Barks, Fruit, and Mushrooms for Tea:
Blackberry, Buffalo Gourd, Burdock, Chicory, Dandelion, Dewberry, Honey Locust seedpods, Horsetails, Indian Strawberry, Lizard's Tail, Mallow Seeds, Mayhaw, Reishi Mushroom, Turkey Tail Mushroom, Parsley Hawthorn Fruit, Rose Hips, Sassafras, Slippery Elm, Sumac Berries, Bull Thistle, Milk Thistle, Turk's Cap Fruit, Willow

Buy my book! Idiots Guide Foraging covers 70 of North America's tastiest and easy to find wild edibles shown with the same big pictures as here on the Foraging Texas website.

Making Maple Syrup & Sugar

Maple sugar/syrup is easy to make and is a wonderful source of stable, storable calories. You can collect the sap from any maple tree (not just sugar maples) in any part of the world if you know what you are doing.

First, a little plant biochemistry. The sugar in maple sap is used by the tree as building blocks for making new leaves. This means the sugary sap starts flowing in late winter when the tree starts making the leaf buds. Up north, the tree "wakes up" and begins pumping sap up to its branches when nights are still below freezing but daytime highs are in the mid-40s. This is when you need to tap your tree. In southern climates knowing when the sap flows is trickier. I suggest you drill a 1/4" hole into your tree at a slight upwards angle 3" into the tree on New Year's Day and then watch for sap to begin leaking out. Drill this hole on the south (warmest) side of the tree about 3 feet off the ground, just as you would place a tap (aka "spile"). I wouldn't put a tube or anything in it other than maybe a cotton ball that had been treated with the bleach solution. Just keep an eye on the hole and see if it starts weeping.

Traditional maple tree taps are called spiles and can be ordered on-line from various sources. You can also make your own spiles from PVC tubing, Tygon tubing, plastic pen bodies, hollowed-out pieces of elderberry, bamboo, etc. Just make sure the hole you drill will hold the spile tightly. If the hole is too big you can pack the opening with softened wax. The spile should be cut at an angle with the longer part of the spile up against the top of the hole. Sap flows into the hole from the bottom (duh), so you don't want to plug the bottom of the hole. Sterilized soda bottles make great collectors as the small top keeps crap out of the sap. Traditional sap buckets have hinged cover to do the same thing (crap protection).

You need a maple tree at least 12" in diameter to tap. Drill the tap hole(s) on the south-facing side of the tree about three feet off the ground. If the tree is more than 20 inches in diameter you can add a second spile, and if it's greater than 27 inches you can have three spiles. The tap holes are drilled 3 inches deep at a slight upward angle. Spiles will be either 5/16 inches or 7/16 inches in diameter, so use the corresponding drill bit. Pound the spile into the hole and hang your bucket from the little notch on the spile.

IMPORTANT: Wash all your drill bits and spiles with a bleach solution before they enter the tree to avoid infecting the tree with fungus or bacteria! Use a 1:10 bleach to water solution (example: 1 teaspoon bleach in 9 teaspoons of water). Let any plug-dowel soak in freshly-made bleach solution for about 15 minutes before inserting it into the hole. Soak-time for spiles and drill bits ranges from 2-3 minutes for metal or plastic objects up to 15 minutes for porous materials. Some people spray this solution on the tree just before tapping but I have a bit more faith in the strength of trees than that.

Sap will run 4-6 weeks, but the sweetest, most sugar-filled sap will be at the beginning. Check your buckets and collect the sap every day at first as the sap will really be flowing and this will keep non-sap stuff out of the buckets. By the fifth week all the sugar that had been stored in the roots has been transferred up into the new leaf buds. Remove the spile, disinfect the tap hole, then place a bleach-treated wooden dowel in the hole.

It takes about 10 gallons of sap to make one quart of syrup, or a 40-to-1 sap/syrup ratio. Boiling it down releases a LOT of water vapor so it is best done outside. Side story: one year my dad decided to boil off the water using the stove inside the house. Mom was out of town that day. Dad boiled off approximately 50 gallons of sap which caused all the wallpaper in our house to peel. When mom got home she was pretty upset.

It's best to evaporate most of the water over a wood fire outside using a big pot. Pure water boils at 212F, finished syrup boils at 219F. Keep track of the temperature with a large candy thermometer. Once you've driven off enough water outside over the fire to raise the boiling temperature to 216F you can take it inside and finish it off over the more controlled heat of your stove. Transfer the fluid to a smaller pot, filtering it through some cheese cloth if there are solids present. Once it reaches 219F transfer the hot syrup to clean (sterilized by boiling) jars.

This syrup will stay good as-is for about two months and if frozen for up to a year. For longer-term storage it is best to reduce it down to maple sugar. To do this carefully keep boiling the syrup to drive away the rest of the water. You want the temperature of the boiling sugar to be between 290F and 300F. It will want to foam over and if it does remove the pan from the heat until the sugar/syrup settles down, then return it to the heat. Traditionally, the boiling sugar (290-300F) is transferred to a wooden bowl and stirred with a wood spoon to remove the last bit of moisture. It will harden into a solid mass as it cools. This mass is broken off the spoon and out of the bowl and stored in an airtight container. When sugar is needed use a heavy-duty cheese grater to grate off what you need.

Buy my book! Idiots Guide Foraging covers 70 of North America's tastiest and easy to find wild edibles shown with the same big pictures as here on the Foraging Texas website.

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