Local Forages: Yerba Buena

Local Forages

Commonly found wild & cultivated edible plants
to use in the kitchen

Featured plant:
Yerba Buena 

(Satureja douglasii)

“‘Refreshing’ is a word that is used frequently, but I never really knew what it meant until I started drinking yerba buena tea.” -- Judith Larner Lowry, California Foraging.

Yerba Buena, translates to “good herb” in Spanish, is a ground-hugging, fragrant perennial that is great for tea.  Found in chaparral, oak woodlands, coastal shrub, and mixed evergreen woodlands, yerba buena enjoys the shade and can be gathered from early spring into the summer. This herb has been used medicinally by native people for indigestion, insomnia, fevers, colds, arthritic pain & toothaches.  From making tea to using the fragrance as perfume, yerba buena is a great plant to collect, use, and grow.

Avoid pulling by the roots as tip-pruning will produce further growth which is also the most flavorful part for tea.  The leaves and the flowers may all be used for tea, so do not be shy when collecting Yerba Buena!

Rinse off the leaves and they can be used to flavor your water or make tea.
For tea, simply pour boiling water over the stems in a tea pot and leave for ten to fifteen minutes, or sun tea can be made by leaving it in a mason jar over a day in direct sunlight.  Simmering the leaves is another way to make the tea.
Leaves can be removed, redried, and used again after steeping as well, and it is difficult to ever ruin the tea.
You can also put a sprig or two into bottled water while hiking to keep the water tasting fresh! Bonus: Yerba buena can be put in clothes as a little fragrance-booster.

In the garden we use this plant as a groundcover in shaded areas and it can take light or occasional foot traffic. It can be grown from root divisions or seed. It also mixes well with Fragaria vesca (Woodland Strawberry) to make a more dense and edible groundcover. Due to the low maintenance it requires, it can easily be grown in a pot with a drainage hole, it may just need a bit more water.  It is also clay, sand, and shade tolerant, so whether in a hanging pot, for ground cover, or trailing a shaded wall, this plant is not invasive and can be easily maintained. Growing dimensions can be up to six feet outwards and two inches high.  Yerba buena’s scent is also a deer deterrent.

The details above were excerpted from:
California Foraging by Judith Larner Lowry