Harvesting Homegrown Tea

Home Grown Tea
Hot homemade tea is a tasty and healthy pick-me-up over the fall and winter months. If you have herbs in the garden, now's the time to harvest and dry a few for your tea cabinet. Let's take a look at some herbs that make healthy -- and tasty -- tea.

Catnip tea (nepeta cataria) - Fresh catnip can smell a little sour, but drying seems to bring out the light aroma that gives away this plant's origins as a member of the mint family. It's a natural sedative and aids in digestion. Historically, when China tea was scarce, catnip tea's became a popular substitute. Even if you don't have a cat, catnip tea is the cat's meow. Harvest and use the plant's leaves and flowers. Avoid catnip tea if you're pregnant or breastfeeding.

Passionflower tea (Passiflora incarnate) - An effective sleep inducer, passionflower leaves should be on your list of home grown sleepy time teas. Take this soothing tea an hour or two before bedtime. Luckily it's easy to find and grow.

Fenugreek tea (Trigonella Foenum-Graecum) - Fenugreek seeds taste like maple syrup (without the sweetness). Sweeten the tea with honey to treat a sore throat, mild tinnitus (ringing in the ears) and indigestion.

Lemon balm tea (Melissa) - One of maybe seven prime herbs to help you sleep (passionflower is another one), lemon balm is a member of the mint family but you wouldn't know it from the aroma, which has all the bright sweet power of lemon without the bite.

Home Grown TeaLavender tea - I've discussed this one many times. Lavender tea is a muscle and mind relaxer that you should really rely on to decompress after a hard day. Drink it. Put it in your bath. Add a sachet to your pillow. It's all good.

Mint tea - As a pick me up, breath freshener or stomach settler, you can't beat mint. I use a mixture of peppermint, apple mint and spearmint. Whatever you grow, it's likely to make a superior tea. Dry the leaves and stems. Once dried, use about a tablespoon of mint for eight ounces of boiling water.

Sage tea (Salvia officinalis) - This is the herb used in stuffing, but as a soothing tea its natural estrogens can help reduce the severity of night sweats, hot flashes and menstrual cramps. This one can be a little bitter and earthy, so sweeten it with honey, stevia or sugar. Dry the leaves. Avoid taking sage in bulk if you're pregnant or nursing.

Camellia sinensis (China) tea - This is the China tea plant, and it's surprisingly easy to grow and dry. If you can grow standard camellias in your climate, you're halfway there. Although most tea camellia harvesting is done in spring, you can take a few fall leaves to tide you over. If you haven't invested in a tea camellia yet, make sure to put it on your list of new plants for spring. You can even grow it indoors -- for a while, anyway.

These teas have healthful properties and they taste good, too. Because you're growing and harvesting your own varieties, you can mix and match your teas to come up with a blend that offers the flavor notes and health benefits you want.

From a muscle relaxing lavender tea with sedative lemon balm (a favorite of mine), to a therapeutic fenugreek seed tea with orange peel and honey, having a full tea drawer or cabinet is one of the great benefits that comes with planting an herb garden. In the middle of February when you think winter will never end, you can open your cache of herbs for a fragrant reminder that spring is on its way.


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