Harvesting an Herbal Tea

Harvesting an Herbal Tea

Harvesting an Herbal Tea 560 315 Eco Garden Systems

The first day of fall has passed and temperatures are cool enough to break out the blankets, stoke the fire, and sip on some delicious warm drinks. Nothing is better this time of year than the standby favorites of coffee, hot chocolate and tea. Tea is not as popular as perhaps coffee or hot chocolate, but I think of it in particular because my garden is full of herbs that can be harvested for a nice flavorful tea. With the gardens winding down for the season there is still time to maintain the herbs in your garden to dry for future use. There are many herbs that can be used for tea. Some of my favorites are lavender, mint, rosemary and lemon balm, all of which I have grown in the Eco Garden System. I have even used them on the stove steeping in water to add a fantastic fragrance to my home. Herbs have so many uses! They can be used in all kinds of recipes from desserts to drinks. They add so much beauty and aroma to the garden as well as the home. The fresh aroma of just picked herbs is amazing as well as the beauty of the herbs in a bouquet on your counter. Not only is flavor and aroma part of an herb but they are also known to have medicinal properties that can help with many ailments. I had two such herbs that I set out to harvest for an October tea.

Lemon Balm

This was the first year I had grown lemon balm and it was one of the most fragrant herbs I have grown. I thought basil was wonderful because it smelled like an Italian kitchen but lemon balm was like a lemon meringue pie explosion. The lemon oil even looked visible on the sunniest of days. It was hard to resist rubbing a few leaves in the palm of my hand just to enjoy the lemon scent. This plant grew so fast and full that cutting it back several times in the summer was a must. Now with the days getting colder I wanted to salvage as much of the lemon balm that I could which meant drying and storing in a sealed container. The process was very easy and took about a week to complete.

I cut a large amount of the plant and set out to remove any bruised or eaten leaves from the bunch.

I rinsed the leaves under cool water to remove any dirt or bugs that might have been on the leaves and then made sure to remove any water using a paper towel. Water left on leaves can cause brown spots so it is important to remove as much moisture as you can from the leaves.

The next step was to simply gather the leaves into bundles and secure with string or jute and hang to dry for a few days. It is important to choose a cool dark place to dry the leaves to ensure the flavor remains strong. If they are located where there is too much light or heat the oils can evaporate making them less than pleasing. Once the leaves felt crisp and dry I removed the stems and crumble the leaves into a container for future storage. When making the tea use one heaping tablespoon of the dried leaves in one cup of boiling water. Let it steep for at least 30 minutes for a strong flavor. Strain leaves before serving. Enjoy!

Mint

Mint was another herb that was ready to harvest and I did the same process as with the lemon balm. The only thing different with the mint was that it took a longer period to dry than the lemon balm. Even though they are from the same plant family the mint leaves had a velvet soft texture that took at least a week to dry. I found the mint leaves to have a very strong flavor and aroma after drying compared to the lemon balm which ended up having a woodsy mild lemon flavor and aroma. Using fresh lemon balm during the growing season will have a stronger lemon flavor and is preferred when using in other recipes.

I chose to store both the lemon balm and mint in glass containers to avoid moisture build up that can occur in sealed plastic containers. I know the dried leaves will last at least 4 to 6 months if stored properly. The main thing is to prevent light, heat and moisture from destroying them. This also applies to the ones you purchase in the store as well. Regularly discarding old spices and herbs is important not only for safety but for flavor. One to three years is the life span for most herbs and spices. This was a very simple and easy way to preserve what was left of another wonderful garden season. If you haven’t tried either one of these herbs in your garden consider it for the beauty, the aroma, and at best the flavor!

A great way to enjoy your garden in a cup of tea!