I’ve been reading What I Didn’t See and Other Stories by Karen Joy Fowler. I’m enjoying it very much — Fowler infuses the literary with the weird in a way that speaks to my particular tastes and obsessions. I plan on writing about it more on my author blog, but I also found a Mormon reference to document here at AMV. It’s found in the story “Familiar Birds”:
“The Mormons used to make tea from this,” Daisy said. She was pointing to a particularly leggy, stickery plant. “They picked the leaves and dried them and then put them in boiling water. They thought this tea stopped pregnancies. Any woman found with the dried leaves was excommunicated. Or thrown into prison.” (94)
Now Daisy is likely unreliable when she talks about nature. The story is about Clara, a young woman who makes an extended visit with Daisy and her parents every summer (so her parents don’t have to pay for child care). Daisy likes to menace Clara with rural knowledge. So all the details could be completely made up. I wonder, though, how Fowler came up with the anecdote, especially since it correctly uses the word “excommunication” which suggests some familiarity with Mormonism.
As far as I know Mormon tea is the same thing as what people in Kanab (the town in southern Utah where I spent my childhood) called Brigham tea. As I recall, Brigham tea was made with stems — not leaves. In fact, Ephedra (which is what Brigham tea is made from) doesn’t have leaves. It is leggy, though. I don’t know about stickery, though. It’s pointy at the top, but I don’t really associate that with stickery.
I’ve tasted Mormon tea once when I was a kid. It’s not very good.