Can you taste autumn before it disappears? With this guide to the best tree leaves for broth or tea, the answer is yes. But not all leaves are best, so read carefully.
In 2017 Mallory O’Donnell posted his guide to the best ways to use fallen leaves in the kitchen. This is a great starting point, but before ingesting any leaves you forage please research them specific to your area to ensure everything you’ve got is completely safe.
Maple leaves do not taste like maple syrup, they are in fact quite bitter later in the season. They have their place in the broth, but milder leaves are what you’re looking for. Mulberry, linden and beech are all good. Don’t forget pine needles and cedar branches. And you can add other wild plants to your concoction – this broth or foraged tea. Think goldenrod and rosehips, juniper and birch bark.
According to O’Donnell, this is the best recipe for a balanced broth or wild tea:
50 % mild, edible leaves (beech, linden/basswood, white mulberry, birch, sumac, some viburnums)
10 % bitter, astringent or strong leaves (oak, hickory, black walnut)
20 % aromatic, seasoning leaves (spicebush, sassafras, maple)
20 % coniferous needles or branches (pine, spruce, hemlock, fir)
We’ve had an exceptionally mild fall and the weather is staying gentle for the rest of the week. Although the sun is setting earlier now, there’s still time to get out in the trees and look for leaves to bring home and brew up. O’Donnell uses the broth for pho or minestrone. “Before all else, a broth should be sippable, soothing, nourishing. Something you can reach for when at your worst. Remember, this is a base. It should be flavorful but restrained enough to be a background for other flavors.”
Harvest season is drawing to a close, this might be your last chance at foraging before winter sets in. It’s poetic in a way, gathering wild fallen leaves for tea, a fitting end to a perfect autumn.