Have you ever found yourself wondering how you’re possibly going to use up all the herbs in your garden? It’s a good problem to have, but you can only make so much pesto! Introducing tea blends. Homemade tea blends are an easy and delicious way to use fresh-picked or dried herbs from your garden. The health benefits of herbs are endless: they’re a great source of vitamins, phytonutrients, and minerals, they have anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, and anti-bacterial properties, they can be used for digestion support and medicinal purposes, and they can be substituted as a natural sweetener to cut down on sugar intake. So, let’s blend some tea!
Three Major Herb Plant Families for Tea Gardens
Mint Family: This is the most recognizable plant family in your spice cabinet! The Lamiaceae aka the Mint family includes favorites like oregano, rosemary, thyme, basil, marjoram, lemon balm, sage, lavender and mint.
Daisy Family: Love a good Bearnaise sauce? The Asteraceae aka the Daisy family includes the herb tarragon (which gives Bearnaise sauce that lovely flavor) along with more edible flowers such as calendula, chamomile, echinacea and sunflowers.
Verbena Family: Lemon verbena is part of this plant family and smells fantastic in the garden. Pro-tip: plant it near lavender to create a refreshing aroma fusion in your garden.
Simple Herb Growing Tips
・Find plants at your local nursery so you can have confidence that the variety you are choosing will grow well in your area.
・If you are looking to experiment or happen to live in an area where the growing zones are close, be prepared to accept that the variety you choose may not thrive or come back the next year.
・Prior to planting, make sure the growing area is weed free.
・Plant seedlings or seeds in a fresh layer of compost.
・Fertilize plants monthly with fresh compost, worm castings, or other organic fertilizers.
・Sunny harvest days are optimal for flavor and scent.
・Morning harvests ensure higher essential oil content.
・Harvest most herbs from the outside first. You will see new growth coming from the base/middle of the plants. You can clip off the leaves and stems and use them right away in your kitchen. Most of the mint family stores well in the fridge for a few days (with the exception of the basil).
・Harvest only healthy stems. Prune unhealthy shoots with clean tools (and clean your tools after to avoid spreading disease, too!)
Uses & Preservation
・To use fresh herbs, boil them to enjoy in a hot tea, or boil and then move to the refrigerator to cool for iced tea. You can also experiment with making cold brew tea, where you do not boil that water first, but let the herbs infuse into the water over a longer period of time (to taste).
・You can dry all your herbs and save them for the winter! You can harvest them and hang them to dry, lay flat on trays or racks with ventilation, or use a dehydrator. You can choose your preference, but the dehydrator is by far the quickest and easiest method.
・Once herbs are dried, remove the leaves and store in a dark container or cabinet. These are my favorite storage jars.
My Favorite Herbal Tea Blends
・Sage (with a drizzle of local honey)
・Holy Basil/Tulsi & Peppermint (50/50)
When you have all these dried herbs, you can mix and match to make personalized blends for you and your friends. I personally brew most of my teas fresh in the summer. I harvest the stems, pick off the leaves and throw them in a pot of boiling water and let it steep overnight. Then I strain it in the morning, add some honey to taste, and I’ve got a week’s worth of garden-fresh tea ready to serve. My mouth is watering right now thinking about pouring a glass of ice cold tea during those hot summer months – how refreshing!
I invite you to expand your horizons when you think about ways to utilize your harvest. A homemade tea blend might not be at the top of your mind when you’re contemplating how to use up a bunch of mint or lemongrass, but using herbs in teas, infused waters, cocktails and mocktails is an easy, fast, and delicious way to enjoy those herbal benefits.
Whether you want to start a tea garden, or carve out a section of your current garden to tailor it specifically to smoothies or cocktails, or just want some more inspiration on how to use up the bounty you already have, you can join my garden-to-table membership community and bounce ideas off of like-minded garden enthusiasts, or you can buy my workbook which walks you through the ins and outs of gardening and provides creative garden-to-table recipes to keep your family full of healthy meals all year long.