Homegrown herbal infusions are refreshing, budget-friendly and packed with variety – and it’s easier than you think to make a brew that you grew yourself…
How To Grow Herbal Tea
A soothing cuppa has restored the spirits of the Amateur Gardening team on more than a few occasions. But maybe it feels like a leap of faith to swap your PG Tips for something fresh and fancy from your own garden or window box.
Until quite recently, I must admit I didn’t realise how rewarding or how easy it could be to grow herbal infusions from scratch – and how much fun it can be to experiment with your own bespoke blends and concoctions.
Having struggled to keep former mint plants from running rampant (often times, they like to stretch out their roots and have a kick-about), and had a few misadventures with a robust pennyroyal (well, who hasn’t?), I’ve learned to appreciate the joys of growing many herbs in containers – and the results go down a treat if the leaves are well prepped and lovingly steeped.
Plants For Your Teapot
Many plants lend themselves brilliantly to the important task of elevating your elevensies, so it seems daft not to be taking advantage of your growing options, whatever your space. As AG’s expert Lucy Chamberlain points out, when it comes to kettle duties, “there’s a perfect plant for every location”.
For sunny borders and partial shade, there’s lovely low-maintenance lemon balm, which isn’t that fussy if there’s a well-drained soil, whereas lemongrass prefers the warmth. Chamomile tea drinkers will be all set if they find a spot with sandier soils.
If you’re growing in patio pots or conservatories, try fragrant cilantro or scented pelargonium. And if you’re stuck in the shade, try some bergamot or a bit of pineapple mint (bear in mind that mint is best in a pot so it doesn’t start wandering off and taking over the garden).
There’s nothing to stop you experimenting by adding other notes supplied from the likes of ginger root, rose hips and even any odd citrus peels you might have knocking about, as well as the services of other garden plants such as myrtle and summer jasmine. Even the likes of nettle and elder can create a top hot drink.
Remember to check the medicinal effects of any brews you are thinking of stirring up – and harvest any herbs regularly to generate more growth and stop them going to flower, which can change the taste.
Right – all this talk of herbal tea has brought on a thirst. Time to pop the kettle on!
How To Make Herbal Tea
1 Harvest young shoot tips (and flowers, where appropriate) for the most intense and satisfying flavours. It’s a good idea to pick your tea-making harvests at the start of the day when they are at optimum freshness.
2 You can either use leaves and flowers fresh, or dry them to use later. If you’re making from fresh, lay the leaves on some kitchen paper and crush them a little to release the flavor before adding them to the pot.
3 To dry the leaves before using them, lay them on sheets of greaseproof paperacross a baking tray. Dry in a low-set oven, and then keep them stored in airtight jars away from direct sunlight.
4 For each tea-drinker, measure one dessertspoon of fresh herbs, or one teaspoon of dried. Boil your water, then leave to cool for five minutes. Steep your herbal pickings for five-1o minutes. Strain, serve and enjoy.
Five Best Picks For Homemade Brews
A classic tea said to aid digestion and boost concentration. ‘Black Mitcham’ is a intensely cool, tasty variety with a delightful scent.
Refreshingly sour tender shrub with a citrussy flavour. Regulates the appetite and also alleviates joint pains.
Pretty daisy-driven marvel, well known for its calming effects. Lucy recommends the annual German chamomile (Matricaria recutita).
Surprisingly sweet, fragrant and moreish, the perfect pick-me-up for fighting headaches, sprains and even toothaches. Use fresh or dried buds.
Potent aniseed flavour that is beneficial for digestive problems such as irritable bowel or bloating. The seeds can be steeped in boiled water.
Did you know?
If you fancy growing your own conventional tea, Lucy recommends buying tender shrub Camellia sinensis. To make green tea, pick the shoot tips, drying in the oven immediately, then steeping. For black tea, pick and crush the leaves, then dry and steep a day later.
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