The Feisty Forager: Spicebush

March Madness — Day 12

Spicebush with summer foliage (photo © SG Séguret)

If you’re looking for a delicious tea at any time of year, spicebush (Lindera benzoin) is the perfect candidate. Also known as wild allspice and Benjamin bush, spicebush is in the laurel family, and sports a brilliant yellow-green cluster of blossoms in early spring.

Autumn heralds in bright red berries, reminiscent of dogwood berries, which can be dried and used as a substitute for allspice. Try removing the outer flesh and gently roasting the inner seed, then pounding it in a mortar and pestle and sprinkling it on ice cream or in cake batter.

At any time of year, you can gather spicebush twigs, break them into one- or two-inch long segments, and heat them to a boil in a generous amount of water, then strain and serve as tea. This is delightful both hot and cold, mixed with a touch of honey if you like extra sweetness. It is also a delicious spicy addition to a gin and tonic on a warm summer’s eve.

This article is one of a month-long series of foraged treasures. For more recipes from the field and forest, check out Appalachian Appetite: Recipes from the Heart of America.

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SG Séguret

SG Séguret

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Susi Gott Séguret, fiddler, dancer, photographer, chef, is author of multiple works, including Appalachian Appetite, Child of the Woods & Cooking with Truffles.