Using these five herbs, you can forget the bags of dried old tea leaves at the supermarket and brew a much better cuppa straight from the garden to sit back and relax with for Garden Day.
Picked on a sunny morning when the plants’ oils are at their most pungent, teas or ‘tisanes’ infused with homegrown herbs are more flavoursome, nutritious – and cheaper – than anything you can buy in the shops.
In fact, in one small raised bed or a couple of pots, you can grow enough herbs to brew through the summer. And if you dry or freeze them, even longer!
A sunny spot will provide the most fragrant pickings, but some herbs such as mint and lemon balm will also tolerate shade. Fill your container with well-rotted, peat-free compost and a little grit for drainage.
Pick young leaves continuously to encourage more growth. When teatime strikes, use hot but not boiling water, so you don’t ‘burn’ the leaves. 'Burning' inhibits the flavour and breaks down beneficial nutrients. Chill in the fridge for the ultimate iced tea.
Here are my top five herbs for tea.
This classic tea herb is also one of the easiest to grow. Swap garden mint for peppermint, chocolate or pineapple varieties and be sure to plant each type in a separate container. The roots can quickly take over, and the different varieties end up tasting the same if planted together.
The sweet liquorice leaves and flowers can be chopped up or bruised for an aromatic brew. Plant plugs in May, and you’ll soon have a clump that can be divided to make new plants. Don’t be alarmed if they die back completely in winter. As a perennial, the plants will spring back into action over the summer.
Golden Lemon Thyme
Happiest in sunny, dry conditions. Ensure you give them a regular haircut to keep the plants bushy. The zesty leaves have a faint rose scent.
Grown from seed, root cuttings or division, this plant is unfussy but will gallop across your garden given a chance, so is best grown in a pot (though not a teapot!). Create your own tea blend by mingling with lemon thyme or mint.
The seeds, which pop with aromatic aniseed, are usually used to make shop-bought fennel tea. But you can also use young fronds in tisanes alongside mint. The key with this herb is not to overdo it; even a few small leaves can pack a punch.
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First published in May 2019