SUSTAINABLE LIVING: GROWING AND MAKING YOUR OWN TEA (PART 3)
TEA FROM FLOWERS
Example: Lavandula angustifolia, lavender tea
Lavender is an “old world” member of the mint family that is native to the Mediterranean areas of Europe and Africa with a range that extends into India and Asia. Of its 39 species, one stands out as the best for making tea, the common (or, English) lavender, Lavandula angustifolia. Liversidge likes the cultivars Lavandula angustifolia ‘Hidcote’ and Lavandula angustifolia ‘Munstead.’ Both are hardy to about 5 degrees F.
How to grow: Lavender is easiest to grow when purchased as a small plant from a nursery rather than trying to grow it from seed. It wants a sunny location and can be grown in the ground or in a pot. If growing in the garden, avoid low-lying areas because lavender resents wet feet. If growing in a pot, take care not to overwater. If your garden soil is heavy, add gravel or sand to improve drainage. Pruning may be required to keep the plant to a manageable size.
How to harvest: The flowers are primarily used to make the tea and can be picked and used right away or harvested and dried for later use. Leaves may also be added to the tea. To dry lavender, cut long stems before the flowers fully open, tie the stems together and hang the bunches in a cool dark place with good air circulation to prevent mold from forming. Drying time will vary. When the flowers feel crispy, dry and brittle, break them and a few leaves off and store them in a sealed container in a dark cupboard.
How to make tea: Warm a cup with hot water and discard the water. If using fresh lavender, put two or three flower heads and a few leaves in a tea bag, place the tea bag in a cup, pour boiled water into the cup, cover the cup with a saucer or lid and let the tea steep for three minutes. Remove the tea bag and enjoy. If using dried lavender, add a teaspoon of flowers and leaves into a tea bag and steep for three to four minutes.
Medicinal benefits: Lavender is well known for its calming and relaxing qualities, helps prevent insomnia, helps fight off colds and coughs, and relieves upset stomachs.
Bonus tips: Other reasons to grow lavender, besides its attractive growth habit and colorful flowers, are that it can be used for culinary purposes, and is deer and rabbit resistant.
Other choices: Additional flowers Liversidge includes in her tea choices are calendula, chamomile, honeysuckle, jasmine, rose, saffron and violet.
TEA FROM ROOTS
Echinacea augustifolia, Echinacea pallida, Echinacea purpurea, echinacea tea
Echinaceas, also known as coneflower or purple coneflower, are native to various regions of the United States. They are popular garden plants because they produce colorful cone-shaped flowers that attract pollinators.
How to grow: Echinaceas are tall plants that work well in the middle or back of a sunny border or for adding height to an arrangement in a pot. Roots must be three years old before harvesting. If you are just starting a “tea garden” and want to make tea from echinaceas, it’s best to start with plants purchased from a nursery. Plants for future harvests can be started from seed. If growing in the garden, mix compost or well-rotted manure into the garden bed. If growing in a pot, mix 50 percent perlite or fine grit into the potting soil to improve drainage.
How to harvest: The reason the plants need to be three years old or more to harvest for tea is to give the roots time to grow large enough for them to be divided — a portion to make tea and a portion to replant. Harvest the roots in the fall, cut off a portion large enough to replant, scrub dirt off the portions you are keeping for tea, coarsely chop them, spread them on a baking tray or fine mesh sieve and place them in a warm, dry place, turning them every so often to ensure even drying. Leaves and flowers can be picked throughout the summer and dried in the same manner. Pick the flowers just before they fully open. Store the roots in a separate container from the leaves and flowers.
How to make tea: Place two pinches of echinacea root and 1½ cups of water in a small saucepan, cover and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes. Add a pinch of leaves and flowers and steep for three minutes. Strain into a teacup to serve.
Medicinal benefits: Echinacea is believed to strengthen the immune system and help fight off sore throats, colds and the flu. It may also help with digestion.
Bonus tip: Some people are allergic to echinaceas.
Other choices: Liversidge also describes how to make tea from roots of angelica, chicory, ginger and licorice.
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