Perhaps the easiest way to use and enjoy herbs is to make herbal tea. Herbal tea (sometimes referred to as "tisane" because the term "tea" used to be reserved for beverages made from a specific plant,Camellia sinensis) can be made from the leaves, flowers, seeds or even the roots of herbs, whether freshly picked or dried and stored for the off-season.
Whatever herb you choose, the process is simple: pour boiling water over crushed herb and let steep.
Okay, maybe brewing a great cup of tea takes a bit more finesse. For that, I'll refer you to some tea brewing essentials from our Guide to Coffee / Tea.
However growing herbs for tea is one of the easiest things you can do in the garden. You don't even need a designated herbal tea garden. Most tea gardens are places to enjoy a cup of tea, not grow one. You can grow and harvest herbs for tea from any of your existing gardens. Fennel grown in the vegetable garden will brew just as flavorful as fennel grown in a pot on the front steps.
However if you do decide to create a garden space devoted to tea herbs, be sure to leave space for a small table and chairs, so you have a spot to relax and enjoy your tea
Tips for Growing Herbs for Tea
- Harvest early in the day, after the dew has dried, but while the herbs are still lush in the cool of the morning.
- Most fresh herbs are at their peak just before they bloom. However many have edible flowers that not only taste great in tea, they add a little surprise.
- Try not to tear or crush the herbs until you are ready to use them. You don't want to waste any of the essential oils.
- Harvest all your tender herbs at the end of the season, once a frost is forecast. You can dry the herbs whole and store for winter teas or for use as seasonings.
How Much of the Herb Is Needed for Herb Tea?
Of course, flavor is a personal thing.
You may like your tea stronger or weaker than the average person. Flavor also depends on the quality and freshness of the herbs, so have fun and experiment. Just remember the old saying, "You can always add more, but you can't add less.".
- Fresh Leaves: 3 teaspoons per cup of water
- Dry Leaves: 1 teaspoon per cup of water
Herbs to Grow for Herbal Teas
This is a matter of personal taste, but the following herbs have been brewed for ages:
- Basil (Lemon Basil)
- Lemon Balm
- Lemon Verbena
- Mint (Peppermint, Orange Mint)
- Rose Hips
- Sage (Pineapple Sage)
Tips for Making Your Own Herbal Teas
- Don't be afraid to mix and combine herbs. If the scents mingle well, the flavors probably will too.
- The longer you steep your herbs, the stronger the flavor will be. However sometimes long steeping makes the tea bitter, so experiment and figure out when your tea is just the way you like it. There are no strict tea brewing rules.
- Add a squirt or splash of fruit juice to the tea and transform it into an herbal punch.
Favorite Herbal Tea Recipes
(Fom, About.com's Guide to Coffee and Tea)