Teas for Two and You in Your Garden…
by Kathryn Ptacek
Winter is a good time to sit back with a steaming cup of tea and look through garden magazines and seed catalogues. Why not think about growing your very own tea garden. You can easily grow herbs in containers on your patio or deck Here are a few suggestions:
Agrimony (Agrimonia eupatoria)
Plant this hardy perennial, also known as cocklebur or sticklewort, in full sun to light shade in a well-drained soil. Use the yellow flowers, leaves, and stems for a tea with a taste almost like apricot. Use caution because the plant is also used for medicinal purposes. Grows 3 to 5 feet. Zones 5-6.
Anise (Pimpinella anisum)
This annual with small white flowers prefers full sun and a cultivated soil. Use the leaves and seeds for a tea with a licorice-like flavour. Grows to 2 feet.
Bee balm (Monarda didyma)
Plant this hardy and mildew-resistant perennial (a favourite of humming birds and butterflies) in moist, fairly rich soil and sun or partial shade. The fragrant leaves make a minty tea. Grows to three feet. Zones 4-6.
Catnip (Nepeta cataria)
Also known as catmint, this hardy perennial grows in full sun or partial shade and a moist, rich soil. Use the heart-shaped leaves for an aromatic tea with a slight minty flavour. You may need that relaxing tea, though, after fighting off neighbourhood cats for this herb (cats love to roll in the fragrant herb that acts as a feline intoxicant). Grows 2 to 3 feet. Zones 3-6.
Chamomile (Anthemis nobilis)
Perennial that likes sun or partial shade, but wants moist, well-drained soil. Chamomile releases an apple-like aroma when stepped on. Use the bright green leaves in a tea for more of that apple taste. Grows 3 to 12 inches. Zones 3-6.
Lavender Vera (Lavendula vera)
Hardy perennial that demands full sun and a dry, well-drained soil. Use the flowers for a sweet tea. Grows to 3 or 4 feet. Zones 6.
Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis)
Plant this hardy perennial in light, sandy soil. Lemon balm prefers full sun to partial shade. Pick the light green leaves before the plant flowers (June-September) to brew into a lemony tasting tea. Grows 2 to 4 feet. Zones 4-6.
Mint (Mentha species)
Hardy perennial that prefers shade to full sun and a moist, rich soil. The three most common varieties are spearmint (Mentha viridis), peppermint(Mentha piperita), and penny royal (Mentha pulegium). Grows to 2 feet. Zones 3-6.
Rose hips (Rosa species, especially rugosa)
Make an excellent tea. Rose hips are also packed with vitamins A, D, E, and espe-cially vitamin C.
To brew tea: take one teaspoon of dried herbs or one tablespoon of fresh leaves (crush or bruise them to release the oils; similarly, chop up the rose hips) for each cup of hot water. Bring water to a boil, then pour into a pre-heated tea cup or tea pot. Use an infuser or tea ball for the herbs, and don’t depend on the colour of the liquid to decide if your brew is too strong or too weak. Taste it, and adjust to your liking. For a treat, try blending two or more kinds of tea leaves.