As a child, I remember my grandmother picking rosehips from her garden, steeping them in boiling water, and adding just a touch of honey. At the time I had no idea what she was doing, but she was, in fact, creating her own herbal teas.
Last summer The New York Times ran a story in which writer Michael Tortello set out to grow his own herbal tea garden. Included in this backyard experiment were lemon balm, lemon grass, lemon verbena, calendula, catnip and chamomile, as well as marshmallow, echinacea and sweet cicely.
Mulling this story over in the Two Leaves and Bud offices, it got us to thinking – “Just what are the benefits of growing herbs for tea at home?”
First: Herbs can be easily grown, whether you have a spacious back yard or not. Potted plants are a great option. Stop by your local gardening store and ask for organic seeds and begin the planting process in your house this spring.
Secondly: It’s fun experiment. If the herb smells good to you, most times it will taste good too. But know this – not everything should be used in a brew. Be sure to do your research and pick only herbs that are safe for human consumption. And for those herbs that are not pleasant to drink but have great health benefits, you can enhance the flavor by adding cinnamon and sweet honey.
Lastly: The mother of all homegrown tea herbs is peppermint. While many brews can taste too tart or too earthy, mint in just about anything makes people happy, and it’s super easy to cultivate. Grow a bunch and get brewing!
Dandelion Tea (Courtesy of livestrong.com)
Step 1: Harvest dandelion root from your yard. If the soil is soft, you may be able to pull the plant with its root out of the ground by hand. If the ground is compact and hard, use a small hand shovel to loosen the dirt so that you can pull the dandelion out with the root intact.
Step 2: Rinse the dandelion off under fresh running water.
Step 3: Separate the foliage from the root with a kitchen knife. Save the foliage to make salad or to use in other recipes. The foliage can be stored in the refrigerator wrapped in a moist paper towel.
Step 4: Soak the dandelion root in a large bowl of water for 15 minutes to remove any remaining dirt.
Step 5: Remove the dandelion root from the water and pat dry with a clean towel. Chop the root up into small pieces with a kitchen knife. The pieces should be about the size of chopped onions.
Step 6: Spread the dandelion root on a baking sheet and cook in the oven at 150 degrees F for two hours.
Step 7: Make dandelion root tea. To make the tea, combine 1 tbsp. of the roasted dandelion root with 8 oz. of water in a small sauce pan. (You can adjust the ratio of water to dandelion root to suit your palate.) Add 1/4 stick of cinnamon if desired. Heat the mixture over high heat and boil for five minutes. If you used the roasted dandelion root you will need to strain the tea through a sieve before drinking. Sweeten the tea with honey, if desired.