What can cool you down on a hot summer day, pair with cakes at a fancy brunch, and soothe a sore throat on a frosty winter night? It’s the second most consumed beverage in the world, tea. When you learn how easy it is to grow and make your tea, you will be asking yourself, “Why didn’t I do this sooner?”
Growing a garden of tea and herbs can allow you to enjoy your blends, as well as the beautiful flowers and aromas of fresh herbs. We had A LOT of fun choosing which flavors we wanted to plant in our tea garden. Once we planted the tea garden, we waited a few weeks for our garden to grow, then we harvested bundles of our goods and dried them out. Once they were dry, we had a tea party in the garden!
Benefits: Chamomile is known for its calming effects, but the small, daisy-like flower can also increase appetite and relieve indigestion.
How to grow: Sow chamomile seeds indoors or in the garden. Plants do best in fertile, well-drained soil in a sunny spot. While chamomile will grow most places, it will not tolerate temperatures over 98 degrees for very long.
How to Harvest: Harvest branches when they have several open flowers, and hang to dry in bunches. Once the stems have dried, remove the blooms and store them in an airtight container.
To Brew: Steep two teaspoons of dried flowers in one cup of boiling water for five to 10 minutes.
Benefits: Mint has a numbing, calming effect, making it an ideal drink to relieve anxiety, depression, or headaches. Mint also reduces flatulence, bloating and stomach cramps, and has been shown to effectively relieve symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) by up to 75 percent. Cooling menthol in the tea relaxes intestinal muscles and produces bile, which digests food more quickly.
How to Grow: Mint is a hardy plant that is relatively easy to grow. It will grow in average soil and partial to full sun. Start seeds indoors and place outside after the last frost, or place fresh stem-tip cuttings in moist soil to root. Mint will spread, so plant it near a barrier, such as a sidewalk, or grow it in a container.
How to Harvest: Pick leaves often to promote growth and keep the plant bushy. While mint can be dried, it tastes as good fresh.
To Brew: Harvest fresh leaves, tear them up slightly, and steep in boiling water for three to seven minutes.
Benefits: Lemon balm has calming properties; it can also help relieve headaches and lower blood pressure.
How to Grow: Lemon balm grows quickly in most places; it tends to spread. To prevent spread, grow this herb in a pot, or cut back flowering stems in late summer. Lemon balm grows best in fertile, well-drained soil and full sun.
How to Harvest: Its leaves are best when harvested just as flowers are beginning to bloom. Simply cut the leaves and dry them out.
To Brew: Steep a few dried or fresh leaves in boiling water for two to five minutes.
Benefits: Lavender produces beautiful purple flowers that not only smell and taste wonderful but also help ease headaches and prevent fainting and dizziness.
How to Grow: Lavender prefers very well-drained, almost sandy, soil and sunny, open areas. It can grow in pots or planters but will grow taller and have better air circulation in a garden, which will help deter fungus.
How to Harvest: Pick stalks of lavender just as the flowers bloom, and dry in small bundles before storing in an airtight container.
To Brew: Steep four teaspoons of dried flowers in boiling water for two to five minutes.
Benefits: Echinacea has antiviral and antibacterial properties, which make it great for helping to combat colds and sore throats. The whole echinacea plant, from its purple coneflowers to its roots, can be used in tinctures and teas.
How to Grow: Start with a plant from a nursery, or sow seeds indoors in late winter. Echinacea will not bloom reliably until its second year, but it is hardy and can withstand cold winters. It prefers full sun in cold climates and partial shade in areas with hot summers. Echinacea grows best in rich soil with a neutral pH.
How to Harvest: Roots can be washed, cut into small pieces, and dried. Stems should be cut above the bottom set of leaves and hung upside down to dry.
To Brew: Steep one tablespoon of dried root or dried stems and flowers in one cup of boiling water for three minutes.
Benefits: Studies show that it can measurably lower blood pressure. It is also frequently used for stomach upset, cramps, fever, and sore throat. It’s rich in vitamin C so it can help to boost your body’s immune system.
How to Grow: Most hibiscus plants are grown from potted nursery plants. You can also take cuttings from a hibiscus shrub or start hibiscus from seeds sown indoors 6 weeks before the last frost. All hibiscus plants grow best in full sun. They need fertile, well-draining soil that stays moist, but not soggy.
How to Harvest: Pick of the hibiscus flowers and dry them out.
To Brew: Hibiscus tea has a very tangy flavor and a rich red color, similar to cranberry juice. Like with several other herbal teas, when you brew hibiscus, you brew the flower.
For more information about the medicinal benefits of tea, READ HERE
DIFFERENT METHODS TO DRYING OUT YOUR TEA:
Withering: This is the process of allowing the leaves to air-dry. Usually, leaves are left to wither in a thin layer on a flat tray.
Rolling: using your hand or a cloth, roll the leaves, so they’re wrinkled. Rolling cracks the cell walls of the leaves and allows the flavors and antioxidants to escape into your brew.
Drying: While tea can be served after it has been rolled, it is often more economical to spend your time producing enough tea for several brews. To store your tea for later use, you’ll want to dry it. You can dry your tea by spreading it out in a thin layer to air dry, then lay it out in the sun—or you can bake it under low heat until the moisture is gone from the leaves.
Dehydrating: For large batches of tea, clean off your leaves (pick out any bugs), and then place the leaves onto the dehydrator machine. Put the device on the lowest heat and check it every couple of hours. They should be completely dry within 3-5 hours. Be careful not to burn your leaves, so check them regularly.