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25 ideal plants for a tea garden

Drying herbs Harvest your herbs on a dry day. Avoid harvesting

during mid-day when the sun will make herbs droopy, they are best picked first thing in the morning after the dew has dried, or in the evening. The best way to dry herbs is to strip them from their

stems and dry them flat on a mesh screen. Dehydrators are wonderful as they will speed the drying process with- out cooking the herbs. If your oven has a low setting of (100-125 F) you can try it with the door ajar, but this can bake away flavour if herbs are dried at too high of a setting. Herbs can also be hung upside down. While naysayers point out that this method can attract dust and be a little messy, it is extremely pretty. It is hard to resist the look of fresh herbs drying in this manner. You know your herbs are completely dry if they crum-

ble to the touch. If they feel leathery or pliable they are not ready. Dried herbs can be sealed in air tight glass containers.

Making tea One large handful of fresh herbs should do for a four

to six cup teapot. Crush fresh herbs in the pot prior to adding water to release the oils. Fewer dry herbs are required, only one tablespoon per mug. Avoid metal teapots, glass and ceramic are best. Steep

herbs for three to five minutes in a covered teapot, then strain them out. Steeping for a longer period of time can make tea bitter. Leftovers can be refrigerated for iced tea. Yum!

Old fashioned sweet tea If you have never tried old fashioned sweet tea, make

this the year. All you need is a large jar with a lid, fresh herbs and cool water. Pack your herbs in the jar, fill it with water and cover it with the lid. Let it steep in the sun for a couple of hours, it only gets better with time. Since sweet tea does not reach boiling temperatures

to kill bacteria you will need to take a few precaution- ary measures. First and foremost, always use sterile containers. Drink the tea as soon as it is ready. It is such a refreshing treat with a spoon of sugar or honey and a couple of ice cubes after working outdoors that you may have a hard time keeping leftovers. If you do, refrigerate it and use it up within eight hours. Dispose of the tea should it begin to look thick and syrupy. v

The Mint family – so many to choose from! O

ptions are almost limitless with so many flavoured varieties now available. Harvest these herbs frequently as mint can become aggressive in the garden. Here are

some of our tea making favourites. Peppermint (Mentha x piperita). Peppermint has a robust

flavour that is wonderful for making teas to calm upset stom- achs, aid in digestion or help relieve a headache. Orange mint (Mentha piperita ‘Citrata’). This mint has a

strong citrus aroma and flavour. Spicier than many other vari- eties it makes an excellent tea. Strawberry mint (Mentha spicata 'strawberry'). Delicious

for iced teas, drinks and desserts. Apple mint (Mentha suaveolens). Apple mint has a less

intense flavour and smells lightly of apples. Pineapple mint (Mentha suaveolens ‘Variegata’). A light

fruity scent, this is excellent for iced teas. Chocolate mint (Mentha piperita ‘Chocolate’). This mint

has a flavour similar to peppermint patties with a cocoa scent. It makes wonderful iced teas. Spearmint (Mentha spicata). Spearmint contains much less

menthol than other mint varieties. It's great for digestion. Bee balm (monarda didyma). This member of the mint

family is also known as bergamot. It is the source of Earl Grey’s unique flavour, a mix of citrus and spice. Use the younger leaves and flowers for tea. Catnip (Nepeta cataria). Another member of the mint

family, these fuzzy scallop-shaped leaves have a lemon-mint flavour. If you have a cat, be cautious when drying it, and be ready to share. Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis). This mint family member

has scalloped lemon scented leaves that are divine in evening teas. Lemon balm is best brewed fresh.

10 • Summer 2016 Summer 2016

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