My neighbour’s daughter expressed an interest in growing herbs that make good teas, which led me to create a list of good candidates for her. She asked the right person, as when we first bought our home in Yellow Point, I had a plan to open a tea garden where visitors could harvest fresh herbs from the garden to make their cup of tea. My role was to grow enough plants to meet demand, based on one large handful of fresh herbs per four to six cup teapot.
First on my list are the mints, which come in a range of flavours from pineapple to chocolate, so offer a host of flavour possibilities. For those who like citrus, there’s lemon verbena, lemon balm or orange mint. For those who like a licorice flavour, there’s anise hyssop or fennel seed tea. A combination of peppermint and spearmint leaves work for those looking for an energizing tea; chamomile flowers or lemon balm leaves work best for a relaxing tea. For a floral note, choose lavender, rose petals or bergamot leaves. For a woody herbal flavour, add rosemary, sage or yarrow leaves to the blend.
Lemon Blend Tea
Mix equal parts fresh lemon balm leaves and fresh lemon verbena leaves. Add grated lemon peel (about 1 tablespoon per cup of lemon herbs). Add some calendula petals for colour.
To dry herbs, harvest in the morning after the dew has evaporated, but before the sun is strong, or pick at dusk. Rinse and pat dry if desired. Strip the leaves from their stems and dry them flat on a mesh screen. Sprinkle the herbs no more than two or three layers thick on the screen. Dry away from direct heat and light and fluff occasionally until they crumble when crushed. When making tea with dried herbs, use one tablespoon (15 ml) per mug. This is simply a guideline, as amounts vary according to taste. Avoid making herbal tea in a metal pot, which is reactive and could affect the taste; choose ceramic or glass instead. Glass teapots make it possible to gauge when the tea is ready.
Peppermint can aid in the reduction of a number of painful digestive problems, including gas, bloating and nausea. It can also help ease the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome. Inhaling the scent of peppermint can result in a heightened level of energy.
German chamomile is the easiest daisy-like plant to grow. It seeds itself readily and comes back every year. Its mildly sedating and muscle-relaxing effects promote general relaxation and relieve stress, helping those who suffer from insomnia to fall asleep more easily.
Lemon balm is another herb that grows anywhere, readily self seeding. Lemon balm is a calming tea and is widely used to treat anxiety and insomnia in Europe.
Herbal Sun Tea
Cool down with delicious, thirst-quenching herbal sun tea. Solar tea never tasted so good! All you need is a quart canning jar, water, coarsely cut herbs of choice and sunshine! Toss one cup of fresh herbs into the canning jar, fill with water, cover with a lid and place the jar where it receives maximum sunlight. Give the mixture a couple of shakes through the day. As the sun goes down the tea should appear rich and translucent in colour.
Strain the contents and pour fresh tea on ice to enjoy.
Some of two-ingredient blends good for beginners:
- Elderflowers with peppermint
- Calendula petals with mint
- Peppermint with spearmint
- Sage with lemon verbena
- Lemon balm and lemon verbena
- Chamomile with hibiscus flowers
Carolyn Herriot is author of The Zero Mile Diet, A Year Round Guide to Growing Organic Food and The Zero Mile Diet Cookbook, Seasonal Recipes for Delicious Homegrown Food (Harbour Publishing). Available at your local bookstore.