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Susquehanna Life

Garden Shed: Grow Your Own Herbal Tea

Mar 16, 2021 07:10PM ● By Erica Jo Shaffer

Gardening invites participants to dig deeper. Side effects usually include a sense of calm, stress relief and reduced anxiety. It seems we could all use more of that. Growing your own herbs to craft homemade teas is a step in the right direction.

Many turned to gardening last year in the midst of uncertainty and their homebound status. The surge of new gardeners are curious about growing, and perhaps hungry for connection with the earth. We may need to root in.

While many turned to vegetable gardening, growing herbs delights through fragrance or taste, both of which stimulate endorphins. Herbs are used in everything from cooking to salves, medicines to potpourri. Today we will explore growing herbs in your own garden to craft homemade teas to uplift and de-frazzle.


The good news

Herbs are quite easy to grow, requiring at least six hours of sun and well-drained soil. Annuals are replanted every year. Perennial herbs return every year, provided the growing conditions are right. 

A garden can be designed to accommodate a grand selection of herbs, or they can be tucked into a vegetable garden or even into landscaping. Some herb gardens are quite elaborate, designed to create patterns, with brick or flagstone walkways or even a fountain or sculpture in the center.

Tucking a basil or a few thyme plants next to an azalea is perfectly fine too. Herbs are also very easy to grow in containers, just be sure to use good potting soil and remember to water them.


What to grow?

Many herbs have mood inducing qualities, or more properly worded as an “herb infusion.” Herbal infusions can be relaxing to the nerves, nourishing and delicious. Tea is only “tea” when it contains Camellia sinensis, the plant that gives us white, green, black and oolong tea. Unfortunately, this “tea plant” isn’t hardy above Garden Zone 7. Consider the following suggestions to create your own special tea blends!

Chamomile: One of the best known herbs for creating a relaxing herbal tea. German Chamomile is annual and Roman Chamomile is perennial. Both enjoy hot sunny areas. Harvest all season by plucking the flowers off the low foliage. Fresh blooms have a very strong flavor and can be quite bitter. A little goes a long way. All herbs can be dried on a screen or in a shallow cardboard box in the windshield of your hot car!

Peppermint: All mints are perennial and vigorous spreaders, best grown in pots so they don’t escape into the garden! Peppermint is a stimulant and also can calm the belly. Some people also gain headache relief when sipping peppermint tea. Mints will tolerate up to a half day of shade and still grow well. Fresh mint tea is such goodness! All mints dry easily. Hanging bunches of herbs upside down in a well-ventilated area is quite common.

Holy Basil: An excellent stress relief herb. An annual, Holy Basil will provide an abundant amount of leaves. If you tried dried Holy Basil tea, you are in for a sweet experience when you use freshly plucked leaves to brew a cup of tea.  

Lemon Thyme: All thyme is perennial, enjoying hot sunny areas. It is also evergreen, providing foliage for hot winter teas. Thyme soothes the throat and the lemon flavor of this variety is lovely. Best used fresh, with lots of local honey.

Roses: Rose petals are a fun addition to teas, with the more fragrant roses achieving the best depth of flavor. Note: use only chemical-free roses. Roses provide aphrodisiac, anti-depressant and sedative qualities. Use fresh or dried.

Lemon Balm: A perennial in the garden, it reseeds and spreads. It is a wonderful stress relieving and anti-viral herb. The garden abundance provides for many pitchers of Lemon Balm ice tea all summer. Best flavor is achieved when used fresh, although it can be dried.

Lavender: Another sun lover, this perennial is actually a shrub. The fragrant flowers or foliage can be collected for tea. Calms nerves and reduces anxiety. Use fresh or dried.

Lemongrass: An annual in our area, it grows quickly to provide lemon-flavored grass blades. The fresh scent rising from the cup can uplift a mood and even promote sleep. This herb is thought to relieve pain and swelling. Use fresh or coarsely chop and store in freezer for winter use.

Dandelion: Dandelion tea can be crafted from the plant’s sunny flowers, leaves and dried root. It is an excellent source of many nourishing minerals and vitamins, promoting overall health. Be sure to pluck what you need only from chemical-free lawns. Harvest fresh. Dig roots in autumn, dry and roast for a deeply healthy infusion.

Happy gardening!

 

Backyard Garden Tea: (Chop and use fresh or dried ingredients.)

  • 2 T Peppermint
  • 2 T Holy Basil
  • 2 T Lemon Balm
  • 1 T Rose petals
  • 10 Blueberry leaves
  • 3 medium sized Dandelion leaves
  • 1 tsp. orange peel

Use one teaspoon per 6 oz. cup. Steep for 5 to 10 minutes. Strain and enjoy with local honey.   

Be sure to always use only chemical free foliage. If you aren’t sure, don’t use it. Also, as with all herbs, check for possible interactions with prescription drugs.   


Susquehanna Life magazine has not tested this recipe and disclaims any responsibility for the outcome of its preparation.


Erica Jo Shaffer has been hugging trees and chatting with flowers for over 30 years.

 

Visit SusquehannaLife.com/pages/podcast to hear an interview with author Erica Jo Shaffer in the spring Susquehanna Life Out Loud podcast.

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