The last two weeks have been a whirlwind here. My Dr released me to start walking with two feet. I am using a walking cast, but it is still such a relief to be able to get around on my own. We unexpectedly had to move, which has turned out so wonderfully. I am in love with our temporary home. We were also able to return, in a limited capacity, to adventure school. That has been the biggest blessing of all.
We spent last Friday running and splashing around in disgusting pond scum. It was the most awesome and completely gross thing ever. Squishy was in absolute heaven. He even got to help the grounds keeper at FINS build a beaver dam fort.
Going to Adventure School and settling into the house has inspired me to get us out of the survival mode our schooling has become since my accident. We are slowly starting to find our rhythm again. Which is like a giant breath of fresh air to our home. Part of our rhythm is one of Squishy’s favorite days, kitchen Science (some might call it Baking Day). I loosely follow the Waldorf block days to help Squishy with his sense of time and continuity. Tuesday has traditionally been our baking day, but has evolved into kitchen science day. After all, what is baking but science? I have found it less limiting with a simple change in wording.
Our new house has a very large Loquat tree. The tree has a couple other names, too; Japanese Plum, Biwa, or Squishy’s favorite Eriobotrya Japonica. He is all about the scientific names of things at the moment. If you have followed us for any time, you may have guessed Squishy loves to forage. He has been asking me everyday when he can eat the fruit from the tree. Unfortunately all the fruit is still small and green, but his questions got my brain wheels turning. After a pretty rough morning I handed him some clippers and simple instructions, then sent him outside to collect the thick evergreen leaves.
If you have a mature Loquat tree, there are two main edible parts. There is the delicious fruit, which ripen twice a year. They are a golden-yellow to orangish color and tastes like a cross between a mango and apricot. It has pretty much Zero shelf life, so it needs to go from the tree to your belly pretty quick. It makes a beautiful jam, chutney or jelly, and can be dried as well. I am really looking forward to experimenting with the fruit in a month or so when it ripens.
The second edible is the leaves, which happen to be evergreen and are available to harvest year round. The main function of these large leathery leaves is to make a tea. It is a bit of a process, but the rosy golden liquid is well worth the effort.
Squishy came into the house with a basket full of leaves. Some were newer spring leaves about 3-4 inches long. Some were older growth and a huge 10-12 inches long. We dumped the basket into some cool water and let the leaves soak a bit in the sink.
The larger leaves are easier to de-fuzz in my opinion, but are more brittle. Try to gather the mid size leave of about 6-8 inches.
They have a peach fuzz type hair on the underside that needs to be removed. One method we used was to soak the leaves for a few minutes in cool water and then wipe the underside of the leaves with a wash cloth. Another way that worked for us was to just scrape dry leaves with our fingernails. Squishy did best with the washcloth approach, where I liked using my thumbnail on the dry leaves.
Rubbing the leaves with the washcloth reminded me of the Montessori practical life skills exercise of polishing. Polishing helps the child build mental sequencing and patience. Two things that we desperately need to focus on with Squishy. I don’t own any silver for Squishy to polish, so I was delighted to find this alternative. Especially since he seems to enjoy it so much.
After the fuzz had been mostly removed we tossed the leaves back into cool water and gave it another swirl. You will not get all the fuzz, I try for 80-90%. So don’t stress if it’s not perfect. Tossing it in the water gets more of the loose particles off, plus its adds more splashing fun.
At this point you can make your tea, or dry the leaves for later. (*hint: this makes a fantastic DIY gift) We have done both, and the tea tastes fabulous dry or fresh. If you are drying the leaves a food dehydrater works fabulously, but is not necessary. We dried our leaves in the oven on some parchment paper.
I had Squishy pre heat the oven to 200 degrees then turn it off. Put your leaves in a single layer, and close the door. It does not take long to dry the leaves out. Ours were crunchy in about 4 minutes. You don’t want the leaves to turn brown, that means you have burnt them and the tea will taste bitter and pretty gross. You can also dry them naturally by hanging them in the window with some twine, or laying them outside in the sun. All of these methods work, it just depends on your preference and patience. We are still working on building patience, which is why we chose the oven method this week. After they are dry Squishy enjoys crumbling the leaves to bits, making sure to remove the stems. I know that some people use their food processor for this part, but I was not going to suggest that to my sensory seeker who hates loud sounds.
Squishy and I spent most of the afternoon working on a very large batch and were ready to taste the fruits of our labor by the time the last leaf had been pulverized. I use a pot, but you could use your kettle as well. I just find it harder to strain in a kettle. Add two tablespoons (or 6 medium fresh leaves) to boiling water. Turn the heat down and simmer for 5 minutes. (If you want to sweeten it add your sweetener at this point. I add 1/3 cup of brown sugar for my sweet tea loving boy) Turn heat off, and let it steep for about 10 minute. We drink it as an iced tea, but that is just because Squishy doesn’t like hot food items.
You will end up with this beautiful rosy colored tea with a very mild fruity flavor. *Make sure you strain the liquid well before serving! I use a strainer and a bit of an old t-shirt. This will ensure you capture any remaining fuzz as well as the tea leaves. The fuzz is not poisonous or anything, but some people find it irritating to the throat. Biwa contains no caffeine, that I am aware of, and is packed full of vital vitamins.
According to the Global Healing Center as well as a host of other sources “The leaves and fruit have high concentrations of calcium, phosphorus, iron, potassium, vitamin A, and vitamin C…Leaves may possibly relieve diarrhea, support a healthy mood, counteract intoxication, and may also reduce swelling. Some of these benefits are cited by Eastern tradition, but many of the traditional benefits have scientific backing.”
One of the main elements that I am adding to our homeschool routine is Poetry Tea Time. I have become slightly obsessed with Julie Bogart at Brave Writer and her Tea Time ideas to promote a love of literature. Our Biwa tea was the perfect catalyst for our own Poetry Tea Time. We sat around the table sipping on our tea and reading nature poems the rest of the afternoon.
A little foraging was exactly what this duo needed to lift our mood and create a one of a kind bonding experience for us. It completely turned our day around. We were able to not only get through it, but actually enjoy our time together.