Thursday, July 28, 2011

Making Herbal Tea

This year it's my intention to preserve enough food from our garden, our foraging, and our farmer's marketing to make the winter months a little bit warmer and a lot yummier. Drying herbs is something I've done for a number of years because my front-door herb garden is prolific. This year, I have a bumper crop of mint (peppermint and spearmint), so I'm drying a bunch to use for tea in the colder months.

Because mint can be a bit invasive, I use my tea making to tame the plants back some by pulling them out at the roots where they are crowding my other herbs. Once I've shaped enough, then I just start trimming so the plant will continue to produce for the rest of the growing season. When I have a good bunch, I tie it together at the stems using a rubber band with some string attached and then I hang it to dry on the plant hooks on the porch. When the leaves are dry, I pull them off the stems and store them in jars.

My bee balm (wild bergamot) has also been prolific this year. This plant is a member of the mint family and it was commonly used for tea during colonial times. I'm waiting to harvest my bee balm until after it's done flowering. The purple tufty blossoms that remind me of feather boas are near the top of my list of favorite flowers. Also, the bumble bees are really enjoying them and it makes me happy to see so many happy bees in my yard.

This year I also planted lemon balm and Munstead lavender in the garden hoping to add these flavors to my tea making. It remains to be seen if the lavender will flower and the lemon balm will grow large enough to harvest this summer. It also remains to be seen if they will prove hardy during their first winter up here in Zone 4. My fingers are crossed for expanding my herbal tea repertoire.

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