Yesterday I wrote about how to use herbs from your own container garden in order to make tea. Here are some herbs and flowers that are good to grow for tea:
Mint: Almost all of the mint family is good in tea. Scientists believe the green teas, including mint tea provide antioxidants that are great for general health and wellbeing. Spearmint will freshen your breath (which is why gum is flavored with spearmint). Peppermint tea makes a great after dinner tea because the oil of peppermint aids digestion. Certain mints also carry other flavors. For example, chocolate mint has a hint of chocolate smell and taste. Lemon balm has a lemony smell and taste.
Purple Coneflower: Native Americans brewed dried purple coneflower into tea that they drank during winter months to stave off colds. Today, if you take Echinacea tablets, you are taking a form of purple coneflower.
Chamomile: When peter rabbit got sick from falling into Mr. MacGreggor’s watering can, his mother put him to bed and made him chamomile tea. Chamomile comes in two types: German and Roman. Both types produce tiny apple-scented flowers with round golden centers and tiny white petals. To brew chamomile, pick and dry these tiny flowers and steep them in hot water.
Lavender: Lavender is another flower with healing properties. This versatile flower can be made into sachets to keep moths out of your drawers, put on your pillow so that the scent will soothe you to sleep at night or baked into cookies for a delicate scent and flavor. Lavender kept in sugar will change the taste and scent of sugar. You can use this sugar to sweeten your tea. Or you can place the lavender flowers into the tea loose-leaf style to drive away headaches.
Tea plant: Tea comes from the leaves of a shrub or tree. This plant is hardy to USDA hardiness zone 8. In all other areas, bring the plant indoors in the winter. Young, tender tea leaves are left in the sun to oxidize before being dried, and the character of the leaf changes based on oxidation.
Raspberry Leaves: During colonial times, raspberry leaves were substituted for tea leaves during the tea boycott of the Revolutionary war. Raspberry leaves create a mild, sweet drink that is stimulating. Blueberry and blackberry leaves may also be used. Blueberry tea may be used to regulate blood sugar.
Rose: Rose petals and rose hips may both be used to make tea. Only gather roses that have not been sprayed to avoid pesticides in your tea. Rose hips produce a fruity taste and yield a high vitamin C flavored drink. Rose leaves produce a milder fruity taste.
Hibiscus: In commercial apple-flavored teas, hibiscus is used to create the beverage’s red appearance and fruity taste.
Sage: Sage tea aids digestion. According to Texas A&M University, pioneers made sage tea in fall and winter to help avoid gas caused by seasonal foods such as legumes, cabbage and sausage.
Calendula: Calendula is a fancy name for marigold. I plant this around my tomatoes to keep away root nematodes. But the dried petals are rich in beta carotene. A calendula tea will stimulate the immune system and has anti-inflammatory and anti bacterial properties.
Plantain: Plantain is one of those weeds that you see growing in untended yards, parks and the median of sidewalks. The plant has wide, round leaves that lay flat on the ground and tiny, upright stalks that grow from the center of the plant. In the medieval period and renaissance, the plant was popular due to its health and healing properties. Each leaf has large amounts of beta carotene, vitamin C, calcium and antioxidants. Plantain tea can help with upper repertory infection, dysentery, lower blood pressure and regulate blood sugar.
Thyme: I usually think of thyme as an herb used in cooking Italian dishes. But thyme tea makes a good stimulant and an alternative to coffee. The herb has antiseptic qualities and can be used as a topical tea as well as to drink.
Lemon Grass: This plant is often grown for use in south Asian cuisine, but lemon grass makes a good addition to lemon-scented teas. Lemon grass is an ideal candidate for a container garden, since the plant becomes invasive in the ground.
Mexican Marigold: This plant has a licorice flavor. The flowers blend well in black tea.
Oregano: In North America, oregano was primarily a tea herb until post WWII, when returning GI’s brought back their favorite recipes from Europe. Oregano tea is rich in antioxidants and good for upper repertory infections, and loosens the mucous in the nasal passages.
Rosemary: Rosemary has a pine scent and taste in food. In tea, rosemary is a good source of vitamins and will aide in digestion and soothes aching muscles.
Before making and consuming tea with any of these herbs in it, you should research the herbs thoroughly and talk to a doctor before taking them. Using certain herbs can cause side effects, and the herbs can have interactions with one another.
– All photos courtesy the USDA