Monday, May 14, 2012

Grow an Herbal Tea Garden


Clockwise from left: chamomile, lemon balm, scented geranium, yerba buena, bee balm

A cup of fragrant herb tea is a natural choice when you want to avoid caffeine. And best of all, you can grow a variety of wonderfully scented herbs in your garden or in containers.

Create an herbal tea garden and snip off a couple of fresh sprigs whenever you want a comforting cup of tea. You can also dry your herbs and keep them for winter use in airtight containers and to give as gifts. Your  garden will come alive with their spicy scents and with appreciative wildlife. Bees, hummingbirds and butterflies love the flowers of many herbs. It's a pleasure to rub the leaves and enjoy a whiff of all the different perfumes while working in the garden. Many will do well potted into containers for your porch or patio.

Some of my favorites are: lemon verbena, bee balm, chamomile, scented geraniums, catnip (aka, catmint), pineapple sage, and lemon balm. I recently found a lemon-scented catmint at a local nursery that I've added to my herb garden.

Hummingbirds and bees love the scarlet flowers of pineapple sage

Brewing Herbal Tea

To brew herb tea just add a few leaves or sprigs to your tea pot, or follow this basic method from Rodale’s Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs:
1. Use a non-metal tea pot to preserve the true flavors.
2. For hot tea use 2 tablespoons of fresh herbs or 1 tablespoon of dry per cup of water.
3. For iced tea use 3 tablespoons of fresh herbs or 2 tablespoon of dry per cup of water (to allow for ice cubes).
4. Bring water to a boil, then pour over the herbs in the tea pot; cover to steep.
5. Steep for at least 5 minutes, test for taste, steep longer if desired.

Serve with honey, lemon or orange slices, or sprigs of fresh herbs. I like to add a dab of honey to both hot and iced tea. For iced tea add the honey before chilling the tea so it will dissolve.


Brew Your Own Flavored Tea Drink

You can use your herbs for hot or iced tea. Brew them in combinations or try flavoring a cup of green tea with lemon verbena or bee balm. Iced green tea is really good flavored this way- have you noticed the trendy ice tea drinks sold in nice glass bottles? You can make your own, just flavor it with a bit of honey while it's still hot, chill it, and enjoy.

Teapot Therapy

The pleasant ritual of brewing tea and enjoying a couple of cups from my teapot is very soothing. If you don’t have a teapot you can brew your tea right in your cup, just cover it while it’s steeping and strain out the herbs by pouring it into another cup to drink. Then keep an eye out at garage sales or pottery sales for interesting teapots to collect and enjoy a daily herbal tea ritual.

Published on Eat Drink Better

Photos: Patricia Larenas, Urban Artichoke

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