Talking with a fellow gardener the other day, she mentioned reading an article that stated over 69% of the population report being stressed. I was surprised. Why would anyone want to live a stress-filled life when they could simply brew up a cup of homegrown herbal tea?
That may be over-simplifying things, but for the most part, growing a small garden full of herbs to use for making your own teas is very satisfying; both in seeing the garden grow, and in using it. I drink herbal teas, or tisanes as they are sometimes called, because they are delicious, healthful and economical.
Brewing your own cup couldn’t be easier. Use fresh herbs right from the garden, or harvest tender leaves, stems, seeds or flowers, throughout the growing season. The best time to harvest is right before blooming. Simply wash in cool water, towel dry and spread out on a cookie sheet in a low temperature oven 125 degrees---and keep the door cracked to keep heat from building up and to let moisture escape. Check often so you don’t burn your plant material. For an alternative drying method, spread your plant material out on newspapers or hang bunches of herb out of direct sunlight, to dry for 2-3 days or longer (make sure all moisture is gone or your precious harvest will mold). When dried completely, crumble and store in dark, sealed containers and don’t forget to label.
To infuse a cup of tea, use 1 teaspoon dried or 3 teaspoons fresh material to 1 cup of boiling water. Let this steep 3-5 minutes, strain and serve plain or sweetened with honey or brown sugar.
As your love for herbal teas grows, you may want to invest in an infuser (ball-shaped or teaspoon shaped), for ease in straining---great for dried or fresh teas. For dried tea, you can purchase empty tea bags to fill that can be sealed easily with a hot iron. The bags are great for storage and gifting, and come with instructions. Both these items can easily be found at health-food stores or in herbal catalogs.
So find a little spot in one of your beds or a corner of the garden and designate it a “tea garden”. The delightful fragrance, color and grace of these plants should bring much joy in the short few weeks it takes for your first harvest. Stress relief is only a cup away.
Single herb teas are delightful, but you can also blend two, three or more favorite herbs to create your own signature herbal tea---this is where your creativity will be called upon. As you experiment, you’ll learn which herbs lend sweetness, or a tang. Try out your herbal combination one cup at a time so that you can judge how much you like it before committing yourself to a large mix. That way you can tweak your recipe. And keep track of your recipe so that when you find the perfect blend, you can re-create it.
Favorite Blends: (Use equal parts of each)
A citrus-like taste, great especially with a bit of grated orange peel:
Chamomile, spearmint, lemon thyme, rose petals
Chamomile, strawberry leaves and cinnamon basil
Great iced tea blend
Peppermint and lemon balm
Imitation China Tea
Strawberry leaves, raspberry leaves, peppermint, and lemon thyme