As temperatures dip back down to zero, I find myself making cups of tea more and more often. I enjoy picking herbs that energize before work, calm before bed time, sooth the itch I feel starting in my throat, or simply to provide a flavor that seems just right for the moment. Here are some of my favorites that we grow and dry ourselves:
Lemongrass: This is my favorite lemony herb to use for tea. I discovered my love of lemongrass in Tanzania, where it grew in every kitchen garden. Some neighbors used it specifically to treat high blood pressure. In Vermont, we harvest leaves at the end of the summer, dry them in little bundles (above), and take our plant inside for the winter.
Chamomile: Chamomile soothes and comforts me. It’s my favorite bedtime tea. It seeds itself in our garden, coming back year after year. If flowers are harvested regularly, the plant will continue to produce vigorously until the hottest driest part of the summer.
Anise Hyssop: These flowers are amazing pollinator attractors in the garden and make a sweet mild licorice-flavored tea. Traditionally used to treat respiratory ailments, I love combining hyssop with sage when I have a sore throat or cough.
Sage: Best known as a culinary herb, I learned about sage’s medicinal properties when I was told to make a gargle with it to treat my sore throat. I’ve come to enjoy its flavor in a variety of tea blends.
Bee balm: The source of the flavor in Earl Gray Tea, bergamot is another name for bee balm. The hummingbirds love this flower in our garden. It is in the mint family and spreads quickly, so be careful where you plant it! I harvest petals to add bright red flecks and unique flavor to tea mixes.
Catnip: Another calming herb, catnip seems to have the opposite effect on our feline friends. We like to use it in tea and sneak leaves into the stuffing of hand-sewn toys for cats.
Coriander: We harvest coriander from cilantro plants that have flowered and gone to seed. We save some for planting and some for eating! Used in Indian cooking, coriander is now a common flavor for craft wheat beers. It adds a nice citrusy flavor to tea blends.
Mint: Most people are familiar with this one. Mint and ginger tea is my favorite for soothing an upset stomach. Mint tea is also soothing on a sore throat.
Raspberry Leaf: After learning their use for tea, I now save the tender raspberry leaves pulled from our patch when thinning each spring. They are said to help treat diarrhea and inflammation of the mouth and throat.
Nettle: Surprisingly, stinging nettle looses its sting when dried or boiled. This leaf is very high in iron and can be eaten or used to make tea. It has a “green” flavor that can be enhanced by adding another herb whose flavor you love.
Sumac: The red fuzzy seeds of the staghorn sumac have been used in North America for hundreds of years to make a drink similar to pink lemonade. Sumac is high in vitiamin C and can be used instead of rose hips to add a sour flavor to tea.
Check out past GrowingStories posts to learn how to preserve herbs and flowers and to consider which plants you may want to grow or forage this coming growing season.