Along the Grapevine

Mullein Tisane

7 Comments

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My interest in wild plants is really just for culinary purposes. The more I learn about the benefits of plants which are easy to identify and gather, the more I enjoy figuring out how to incorporate them into my cooking, and consequently come to rely on them as a food supply in my pantry or freezer. Of course, it is always nice to know that these ingredients sometimes have medicinal qualities, but that is just an added bonus. I am no botanist, or scientist of any sort – just someone who enjoys good cooking, so I avoid delving deeply into the home remedy domain which is better left to the experts.

However, as I research edible plants, I come across an overwhelming number of articles about the ‘weeds’ I encounter in my garden, and am amazed at the claims made about them – amazed but not moved. As a reasonably healthy person, I am not looking for remedies for what doesn’t ail me, but all the same, I can’t help but be curious about some of these marvels.

Last year I read about mullein (verbascum thapsus), which goes by a confusing number of other names. Around here it is often called elephant ears, and looks like a monster version of a similar smaller plant called lambs’ ears. It is a biennial which begins with a pretty rosette of large fuzzy leaves. In its second year it produces a tall stem (up to about 6 ft. tall) with a spike of small yellow flowers. They like to grow in sunny dry areas where the dirt has been loosened. Mine all appeared in a large flower bed and tried to take over. The roots are shallow, so it was not a problem to thin them out. However, be careful because the hummingbirds like to build nests in them. Growing these is a much safer way to attract these birds than those bird feeders you see everywhere.

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With its edible flowers, leaves and roots, and its myriad health benefits, I wondered why I hadn’t heard more about it. I was especially intrigued by claims that the leaves could be smoked and used in a tea as a treatment for respiratory ailments such as chest colds or bronchitis. I haven’t smoked any yet, but I did make a tisane with some dried leaves.

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As I expected, the taste was pretty bland, so I added a stick of cinnamon to the next batch for flavour. If I had chamomile in my garden, I would mix it with that, but I expect mint would also go well, or any other flavouring I like in teas, like fennel seeds . If making the tea from fresh leaves, be sure to strain it first to remove the fibres. Because mine had been dried first, I didn’t find that problem.

I am now wanting to try the flowers in a tea, which are said to be more aromatic. I might also try a tincture with the root and/or flowers, but I don’t think I am going to be able to come up with any gourmet recipes from this plant.

Wild Apple and Rose Geranium Jelly on Punk Domestics

At this time last year I posted: wild grape ketchup

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Author: Hilda

I am a backyard forager who likes to share recipes using the wild edibles of our area.

7 thoughts on “Mullein Tisane

  1. Hi Hilda:
    I’ve heard many good things said about this herb. Do let us know how the flower tea tastes.

    • I will probably have to wait until next year to report on that as I think the flowers are mostly gone, and I had to pull up the plants I had as they were getting too big. However, I will certainly try them.

  2. This herb is wonderful. I would caution that overuse can led to nose bleeds (I have experienced it) just as over use of nasal sprays can lead to nose bleeds.

    • That is interesting to know. I did not come across any such information in my research, but always grateful to hear about people’s personal experience. Was this from drinking tea made from leaves or some other form of it.

  3. Yes! This! We have this in our driveway (ok, *had* until a neighbor weed whacked them). So good to know what they are, as they are stunning, but also how useful they are. Thank you, Hilda!

  4. How I enjoy your blog! It’s so creative to use different plants that are growing widely around!

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