A cup of herbal tea, on blustery days like this, warms me from head to toe. After I've been outside clearing a 6-inch snow from the path taking me to the chicken coop, then another path leading to the goats, coming back in the farmhouse to a warming cup of tea makes it all worthwhile.
Lately I've been thinking, why buy herbal tea when I can easily grow the herbs I need myself? I'll know exactly what is in my tea and know that it's absolutely organic.
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To begin with, I'll keep the garden outside my kitchen door...the herbs will receive full sun and be close at hand come harvest time. Next, I'll choose as many fuss-free varieties as possible, brushing up on how to best care for each herb, and making sure I harvest them at their absolute best flavor.
What will I plant? Old favorites such as chamomile, apple mint, lemon verbena, pineapple mint, lemon balm, and peppermint. And then, just to add some new flavors, I'm going to plant lavender, cinnamon basil, sage, and ginger.
Now that I've chosen my plants, what's the best way to grow them? Herbs need to be in full sun, in soil that drains well. My garden will be against a wall, so I'll plant taller herbs in the back, then stagger shorter varieties toward the front. If you want to plant herbs in your yard, create a clever circular design by planting tall herbs in the middle surrounded by smaller varieties. (And herbs grow perfectly well in containers, too if space is limited.) Keep an eye on them to be sure they're getting plenty of water in the long, hot days of summer, and be ready to snip them at their peak.
While you can certainly dry herbs to use year round, you can also enjoy them fresh! Snip them early in the morning, rinse under cold water, pat dry, then store them in a mason jar of cool water and use within a few hours.
It's also easy to dry herbs...simply tie them into small bunches and hang them upside down to dry for several weeks. They could also be dried in a food dehydrator if you have on handy. Once they're dry, store them in an air-tight container.
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You can also find fill-your-own teabags for sale...fill them with your own herb blends to share with friends. Tuck several bags into a vintage teacup...a gift they'll absolutely love.
Recently, at a local shop filled with all kinds of wonderful vintage finds, I spied a pretty retro teapot that was cleverly turned into a wind chime...I think it will be just right hanging in my tea garden.
When the snow is gone, and the ground is warm enough for planting, I'll share the progress of my tea garden from the first plantings to harvest, and even share some of my favorite herb blends. Dreaming of warmer days...planning a garden is ideal on this blustery afternoon.