There’s no hunter in Don Elzer – only a gatherer. The founder of the WildCraft Forest Wild Tea Plantation near the small town of Lumby, British Columbia, Elzer brews tisanes from the wild plants and fruit he gathers, among them Oregon grape, wild mint, hawthorn berry and wild strawberry.
His farm straddles the fertile Okanagan Valley and the mountains, but his harvesting ground extends over 15,000 acres. It stretches from the majestic Monashee Mountain Range to the Shuswap River watershed, a region with a combination of ecosystems he says is unique. “Having desert scrubland so close to rainforest makes a great combination for gathering botanicals,” he explains.
Elzer’s gathering or “wildcrafting” takes him on frequent excursions deep into the rainforests, journeys on which bear spray is a must-have item in the event he should run into black or grizzly bears. The end result of his foraging is an interesting blend of different teas that vary in composition depending on what he’s managed to harvest in a given season.
On an April visit to the Wild Tea Plantation we scooped our hands into a large basket filled with aromatic dried wild rose hips and other chopped plants left over from the fall harvest which are used to flavor the wild tisanes. Elzer’s artisan blends, displayed as loose herbs in wine bottles on the shelves of his store, included “Right of Passage,” a tisane containing spearmint, lemon thyme and self-heal flowers, and “Coyote Sleeping,” a mint and lilac blend named for the mountain on which its ingredients were gathered.
This is an excerpt from the September/October issue of TEA Magazine