The world of tea herbs

by Donna Ellis

My garden is my happy place. Sound familiar?  Never met a plant I didn’t find beautiful. Use is a matter of imagination. 

My dooryard potager (kitchen garden) has 37 plants, and some are part of my tea habit.  

Tea-making uses fresh or dried plants, individually or in mixtures. Clip them fresh, wash, and then use immediately. 

If nothing else, I can flavor my drinking water with single leaf of sage, rolled to release the oils.  I’ve used rosemary, mint, lemon verbena and lemon balm this way.  

Hot sage tea is my restorative. When pollen or mold are high, I use 2-3 fresh leaves torn or rolled, steeped 5 minutes to chase the irritation.

Oregano and thyme have also worked.  I don’t mind pungent, and have tried rosemary and winter savory on their own as a steeped cup.  

Dried leaves can replace half or all the black tea in a brew.  Successful mixtures in my kitchen have included leaf of Mexican lime, rose petals, fern leaf lavender, hyssop, German chamomile, anise hyssop, and tarragon. My advice is go easy with the mint. Less is more.

To boil water, I prefer an electric kettle but any pot will do. Boil, let the bubbles subside, and pour over the experimental concoction. 

For a tisane (herbal tea),  I use 1/2 cup fresh plants to 16 ounces boiled water. Steep for three minutes. Dried plants also steep for three, but use 1/4 cup plant to 16 oz. water.

Garden tea making is a gateway to things like bolted cilantro in scrambled eggs, and Sambuc jasmine blossoms in orange juice. 

If you become a free-range picker, there are cautions: even in your own garden, ID plants with certainty; avoid plants whose compounds are unknown to you; avoid things like blossoms of the Solanaceae (nightshade) family.

This is how I keep my nose-mind connection to the garden. I take my happy place to-go, as a companion in mundane duties. 

Do you grow tea herbs, neighbors?  I’d love to add to my wish list. Happy gardening everyone. 

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