How To Grow And Prepare Herbs For Tea
Growing your own herbs for tea is a simple and enjoyable experience. Experiment with different varieties to find the one that's right for you.
A steaming cup of tea on a cold morning, a tall glass of iced tea on a hot summer afternoon, what could be better? How about knowing the tea that you are drinking, in addition to being refreshing, is free of chemicals, and may even make you feel better? This is simple if you grow your own herbs. Herbs are some of the easiest and most economical garden plants to grow, and in just a few minutes you will know everything you need in order to get started.
The first thing you will want to do is decide what plants you want to grow. Chamomile and peppermint are both easy to grow and delicious. You can start with seeds or seedlings. If you do start with seeds you will find it is relatively easy to plant them outside in the late spring, forgoing starting the plants under lights in your house in the winter. Soon enough your hardy little herbs will sprout, and you're in business. Herbs are very tough plants, seeming to thrive on neglect. Most herbs do not like their soil to be to rich, so you do not have to worry about fertilizing. They also rarely need to be watered, unless they are planted in pots, which have a tendency to dry out quickly. You may want to put a thin layer of mulch or fine gravel on the surface of your soil, to prevent weeds from growing among your herbs. Insects or disease rarely bothers herbs. Let your plants grow until they are stocky, and then you can start harvesting leaves for tea.
To harvest your tea leaves; you gather several stems and snip them from the plant with scissors. Never remove more than one third of the plant at a time, or you may weaken it. You can use fresh or dried leaves for tea. If you are using fresh leaves, simply use them straight from the garden. To dry your leaves, bundle the stems in a rubber band and hang upside down in a relatively cool, dark place, many people find that their closet is ideal. The leaves aren't terribly picky, the cooler and darker the place, the better they will retain their flavor and aroma, but even if you leave them setting in your kitchen window, they will do fine. Let them dry for anywhere from one week to one month. Once the herbs are dry, you are ready to store them. Strip the leaves from the stem and put the leaves in a plastic resealable bag, or a glass jar with a lid. Store this in your kitchen cabinet, so the leaves are not exposed to direct sunlight.
To make one cup of tea, use approximately 3 teaspoons of fresh leaves or 1 teaspoon of dry leaves for each cup of water. Simmer the leaves in the water for about 2 minutes, and then remove from heat and let steep for 5 to 20 minutes, depending on how strong you like your tea. Strain the leaves out of your tea and sweeten to taste with honey or sugar. Drink hot or iced, depending on your mood, and ENJOY.
A recipe to try:
1/4 cup dried chamomile
1/4 cup dried linden leaves
2 tablespoons dried mint
1 tablespoon dried orange blossoms (optional)
2 tablespoons lemon verbena
Mix all ingredients, store in a glass jar. Add one teaspoon of dried herb blend for each cup of tea you wish to prepare.
Feel free to substitute herbs or adjust amounts.
Some common herbs for use in tea, and their reputed health benefits.
Aniseed: Licorice flavor. Nerve soothing, sleep inducing.
Chamomile: Fruity aroma. Relaxing, aids digestion and nausea.
Catnip: Sedative, lots of vitamin C..
Lavender blossom: Sweet, exotic flavor. Relieves fatigue.
Lemon balm: Lemony. Counteracts stress, soothes nerves.
Lemon grass: Mild diuretic.
Lemon verbena: Distinctly lemony flavor. Mild sedative.
Linden: Mildly sweet. Tranquilizing, soothes nerves, indigestion.
Mints: Aids digestion, relives nausea and flatulence.
Orange blossom: Sedative.
Parsley: Rich in vitamin C, natural diuretic, more like a broth.
Rose geranium: Spicy rose flavor.
Rose hips: Slight citrus flavor. Rich in vitamins C and A.