Wild Bergamot - Purple Bee-Balm - Monarda fistulosa L.
This plant with its 'crazy hair' and tall stem is a favorite of bees and hummingbirds, but if we look further down the stem we'll find it has sets of paired leaves, a slight green/gray color... this is the part of the plant to gather.
I say gather after everything has been taken into consideration... if this is a rare plant in your area, leave it alone, if it is a common one, gather responsibly - take only what you will use in the time it will be fresh. This is a potent plant so a little will go a long way! I list the Latin in the title of the plant to differentiate it from the Bee-Balm plant Monarda didyma which is red in color, still safe and can be used in the same manner, but it's good to be aware of the differences.
Now then, you've found this interesting plant, it's in vast abundance locally, what now?
Through the years it has been used for many purposes...
Depending upon the variety of wild bergamot, flavor varies. Those with high thymol content are used as a thyme substitute, but the Monardas do not have GRAS status (FDA generally recognized as safe). Pleasant teas are made from leaves or flowers. Current medicinal uses are much the same as historic applications. Wild bergamot is used for aromatherapy and fragrance, and flowers are included in fresh bouquets or dried for crafting.
Fun fact, Native American bergamot tea drinkers shared this delectable tea with colonial settlers, who then used it as a substitute when imported tea became scarce after the Boston tea party.
1/4 Cup of fresh Bergamot Leaves
1 Cup boiling water
2 Tablespoons of dried Bergamot Leaves
1 Cup boiling water
Pour water over tea leaves, let sit about 5 minutes before straining out leaves,
add local honey or fresh lemon juice if desired, it is now ready to drink!
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Emily is an Ohio Certified Volunteer Naturalist who spends her time exploring and learning about the unique history and nature in North East Ohio. She lives with her husband and cat in Wooster where she is also a family portrait and nature photographer as well as grows and cans her own vegetables. When she's not doing that, yoga and embroidery (not at the same time) are other things she enjoys.