Whichever way you like to drink your tea, having your favorite herbs on hand is a sure way to create a delightful drink any time of year. And what better way to ensure a plentiful supply of wholesome tea-herbs than to grow you own? A little extra room in your garden or a few flower pots on your front patio can result in jars full of dried herbs to last all through the winter.
Herbs in the “tea” family are easy to grow, they like the sun and just need well drained, moist soil.
You can put them in a small container in your kitchen window, or in a pot on the patio or in garden. Some spread quickly, so investigate which are best for your space.
Boil herbs right from the garden or you can put the herbs into ice cubes or dry them for later use. To dry, pick early in the morning before the heat of the day, wash and bundle with a rubber band, hang upside down in a dry warm place, check in on them after two weeks and then crumble into a plastic bag or jar.
Chamomile, one of the most popular tea herbs, is simple to grow and looks beautiful in a garden or window box. Its pretty daisy-looking flowers have a sweet apple-like aroma. Like many other herbs, chamomile loves full sunlight and prefers well-drained soil. Chamomile will grow just about anywhere, but does not like very hot temperatures (above 98 degrees) for very long. To make tea, steep about 1 tablespoon of fresh flower heads – or 2 teaspoons, if dried – in one cup of boiling water. Steep the blossoms for five to ten minutes. Sip and relax!
4 tablespoons fresh chamomile
3 cups boiling water
1 cup pomegranate juice
1/3 cup sugar or less for honey
Place tea bags in a large heat-proof measuring cup or pitcher; pour boiling water over tea bags. Steep 1 hour, or until cooled to room temperature. Remove and discard chamomile. Add pomegranate juice and sugar or honey to taste, stirring until it dissolves. Serve over ice; garnish with mint sprigs.
Known as the “heart’s delight” in southern Europe, and used medicinally by the Greeks nearly 2,000 years ago, lemon balm makes a soothing hot tea or a cooling tea sweetened with honey.
Lemon balm, like many other plants in the mint family, is easy to grow just about anywhere. Take caution, though, lemon balm will spread! If you are planning to grow it in your own garden you may want to keep it contained in a small planter box, or a pot buried in the ground. It can also grow in a pot aboveground. If growing in a pot, make sure to prune often so its leaf stock matches the root stock.
Lemon balm prefers full sun with some midday shade and grows well in moist soil. Lemon balm leaves can be harvested anytime, but the flavor tends to be best right when flowers begin to open.
For a tea, infuse a few leaves in boiling water and let steep for 2-5 minutes. Cool tea and and honey for sweetener (add honey when tea is still hot). Similarly to chamomile, lemon balm helps calm the nerves and uplift the spirit. It is also used to provide relief from bronchial systems, colds, and headaches.
Lavender Lemon Balm Iced Tea
2 cups boiling water
1 teaspoon dried lavender flowers
1 teaspoon dried lemon balm leaves or 1 tablespoon fresh leaves
Honey to taste
Pour water over herbs steep for 3-5 minutes then strain. Sweeten with honey. Chill and serve over ice with fresh lemon and a sprig of lavender.
An herb with a beautiful and fresh scent, lavender has a number of uses beyond herbal tea. It can be used an insect-repellent, added to bathwater, stitched into pillows and spread throughout a garden to create a lovely purple haze across the landscape.
All lavender prefer similar growing conditions. A sunny open area for growing helps to discourage fungus and lets lavender grow tall freely. Your soil will need to be very well drained, perhaps even bordering on sandy. Some lime content also helps. Lavender can be grown in containers, but tends to do better in a garden space. Seeds should be sown in late summer or autumn. You can divide and plant in the autumn, as well. To harvest, gather flowering stems just as the flowers begin to open. Leaves can be picked any time.
To make a tea, infuse about 2 tablespoons of fresh flowers – or 4 teaspoons dried – into boiling water and steep 2- 5minutes.