I recently blogged about brewing your own spruce beer and the pleasure of making your own drinks from nature.
Not everyone drinks alcohol and some people won’t want to wait a few weeks for fermentation and maturing to happen, so I thought I would write a blog covering some recipes for delicious and nutritious bushcraft brews that can be prepared in minutes.
Some recipes here are things that can be carried in a brew kit, while others are a gift directly from Mother Nature herself.
Please note: Please do your own research with any wild foraged ingredients, and make sure you know what you are consuming is safe, especially if you are pregnant.
Beef and tomato
A quick and simple one to start off with; a mouth-watering, warming and surprisingly rehydrating drink can be made with two simple ingredients, both of which can be kept in your brew kit for years: Beef stock cubes and tomato ketchup (the restaurant sachets are easy to carry and of a good portion size).
Simply dissolving one or two stock cubes with one or two tomato ketchup sachets into a mug of hot water will produce a very tasty drink. The combination of salts (sodium and potassium) in both the stock cube and the tomato ketchup make the drink very rehydrating.
Pine needle tea
This is quite a well known one, but so good we had to include it. ‘Pine needle tea’ is a misnomer as various evergreen tree species are often used, including some species of spruce and cedar. Just remember never to use yew; you will die.
Young and fresh growth right at the tip of the boughs which is lighter in colour should be used. Rub and lightly crush the needles together and brew in hot (not boiling) water for 5 minutes. Strain and drink, ideally with some forest honey. Alternatively, use birch sap instead of the water and honey (the sap will be sweet enough as it comes).
Pine needle tea is very high in vitamin C. A cup of it can contain more than a couple of lemons would, and is probably more enjoyable than eating a couple of lemons.
Dandelion tea AND coffee!
Dandelion can make a lovely and nutritious tea by using the leaves and flowers, with the same production method as pine needle tea. Be warned; dandelion is a diuretic, so don’t drink it before bed if you want to avoid emerging from your sleeping bag like a giant moth and staggering around in the dark to go for a wee.
For those who have to have a coffee but don’t have any coffee, dandelion root can also be used as a coffee substitute. It’s not exactly like a cup from Costa, but by roasting the root and steeping in hot water you can have something ‘similar’.
Nettles can be rather annoying, especially if you have fallen into a giant patch of them, as I’m sure everyone has done at some point in their lives. Thankfully, the stingy green plants make up for that by being incredibly nutritious. If you don’t fancy eating the cooked leaves (which taste similar to spinach), then you can make a tea, as per the previous two recipes.
Mint hot chocolate, prepper style
Lots of things go with chocolate; orange, turkish delight, chilli. But my personal favourite is mint. If you have hoarded long-life supplies, including cocoa and Kendal Mint Cake, then you can make a wonderful mint hot chocolate. Simply crumble the mint cake in place of sugar into your hot chocolate and stir until dissolved.
Various mushrooms and fungi can be used for teas (no, we don’t mean those mushrooms). A popular one with bushcrafters is Chaga (Inonotus obliquus), especially as it can also be used as a firelighting material, and works extremely well in fire pistons. Boiled in hot water for at least 15 minutes it gives a surprisingly ‘tea like’ drink.
Apparently it is very good for boosting the immune system, although with anything like that it is based more on folklore than science, so do your own research.
Any wild food needs to be carefully identified and checked for safety before consumption, especially mushrooms where misidentification can kill you quicker than the Grim Reaper on a motorbike, after five espressos.
Or ‘butter tea’, is drunk in the Himalayas, and as far as tea goes it is packed full of calories, so you know it must be a good choice for outdoor activities. Traditionally it is a combination of well-brewed tea, yak butter and salt, although you may of course use cow’s butter, simply melted into the tea. It might not sound nice, but trust me it is lovely, especially at the top of a mountain.
It also makes a nice change to a ‘milk, two sugars’ cuppa.
Bilberry and bramble leaf brews
This tea is too good to leaf out. Although most British wouldn’t be caught dead without some tea bags, it’s good to have some leaves available from the wild to use instead. Leaves from brambles (blackberry bushes) and bilberry leaves can be brewed into a good alternative tea.
Wild rose Arabic coffee
A while back I was offered ‘Arabic coffee’ in, where else, an Arabic restaurant. It was a first for me and I was amazed at the rich combination of rose, spices and coffee.
Coffee and spices are easy enough to find in a pinch, but it certainly isn’t the same for rose water. Thankfully wild roses can be found growing. The petals from these can be brewed in with the coffee to re-create that wonderful combination.
Wood sorrel tea
If you like lemon tea, you will love this one! Wood sorrel (Oxalis acetosella) can be commonly found in woodland and has a taste somewhere between lemon and rhubarb. I always eat a little when I see it. This can be brewed in with ordinary tea to make ‘lemon tea’ or brewed in its own right. I’ve also heard of the sorrel brew being cooled and then it apparently tastes a bit like lemonade!
Sorrel does contain oxalic acid, which can bind to and reduce intake of dietary minerals, so don’t consume too much or too often. Then again did you know ordinary tea was quite high in oxalic acid too?
I hope you get a chance to enjoy some of these hot drinks, please comment if you know of any recipes you particularly enjoy outdoors.