Sunday, April 29, 2012

Drinking in the sun

By: Diane FitzpatrickA cup of herbal tea can be invigorating or relaxing, give you energy or calm and soothe. Herbal teas are remedies for many things that ail us. An inexpensive and simple alternative to store-bought herbal tea bags is to make your own homemade herbal tea, using herbs grown in your own backyard.
Teas are fresher and more flavorful when using fresh herbs as opposed to dried herbs in teabags. Because the herbs are not as finely ground, their medicinal and health benefits are greater.
Choosing Herbs for Tea
Many herbs are perfect for tea. The most popular tea herbs are chamomile, rose hips, lavender, mints, sweet fennel, orange thyme, hibiscus, lemon balm, lemon verbena, linden flowers, dandelion, St. John's wort, licorice root, ginger root, lavender, raspberry leaf and goldenrod violets.
Try mixing your favorite herbs for an herb tea blend.
Some plants should never be ingested. Know what you're growing if you're making tea from your own plants. Never make tea from herbs such as borage, calamus, chaparral, comfrey, ephedra, germander, life root, pennyroyal or sassafras. In certain strengths those herbs can cause liver damage and other organ risks.
Be extremely careful that you don't make tea using any herb plants that have been sprayed with pesticides.
How to Make Homemade Tea
If you plan to regularly make tea with an herb that you're growing, have two plants going at the same time-one to continue growing while you clip from the other plant. Removing too many leaves at once from an herb plant may kill it.
To make herbal tea, simply tear or bruise the leaves (or cut the blossoms, flowers or pods) and mix with boiling water in a ceramic, enamel or stainless-steel teapot. Allow to steep for three to five minutes or until the desired strength is reached. Strain the tea through a strainer and add honey or sugar for added sweetener.
Mint Tea. Mint tea is a favorite among tea drinkers because mint is easy to grow and, when made into tea, is fresh, light and delicious.
Mint plants are very hardy and will grow profusely if not reigned in. Plant your mint in partial sun and be sure it gets lots of water in the hot summer months.
There are interesting types of mint plants available at nurseries-spearmint, peppermint, chocolate mint, apple mint, pineapple mint, lemon mint and orange mint-each with its own aroma and flavor.
To make mint tea, use the leaves (no stems) and tear them or bruise them slightly to release the oils. Place the torn leaves into a pot of boiling water and allow to steep for 3 to 5 minutes. Strain and enjoy.

Chamomile Tea. The most relaxing and soothing of all herbal teas, chamomile tea is another easy tea to make at home. Chamomile tea is made from the chamomile plant blossoms-the tiny yellow and white flowers-rather than the leaves.
Chamomile plants like sandy soil, lots of sun and plenty of water during the hot summer months.
To make homemade chamomile tea, chop or tear the chamomile blossoms. Place 1 tablespoon of fresh chamomile blossoms for each individual cup of water into a teapot. Pour in boiling water and allow to infuse for 5 minutes. Strain and enjoy.

Rose Hip Tea. Rose hip tea is known for its rosy pink color, citrus-like flavor and health benefits, mostly from the high amount of vitamin C is contains.
Rose hip tea is made from the hips-the tiny seed pods that form at the base of the blooms of the rose plant.
When making rose hip tea, cut the hips in half to release the contents. Pour boiling water over rose hips and allow to steep; strain into cups.

Ginger Tea. Ginger tea is known for its medicinal qualities. A hot cup of ginger tea can help alleviate cold and flu symptoms.
To make two mugs of ginger tea, combine 1⁄2 cup coarsely chopped fresh ginger root with 3 cups water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes. Strain, add honey and enjoy.

Lemon Balm Tea. Lemon balm is related to the mint family, but has a pleasant lemony flavor. Lemon balm plants grow best in somewhat dry soil and partial shade.
Making lemon balm tea is just like making mint tea. Tear or bruise the lemon balm leaves and pour boiling water over them. Allow to steep for 3 to 5 minutes before straining into cups.
Mixing Herbs for Tea
Try mixing together some of your favorite herbs to make tea. Combine 1 teaspoon mint, 1 teaspoon chamomile, 1 teaspoon rose hips and a touch of fresh ginger. Pour boiling water over the mix, steep and strain.
If you enjoy a citrus spiced tea, mix rose petals, orange rind, ginger and lemon balm leaves in amounts to taste.
Storing Herbs for Tea Making
You can harvest your herbs in larger amounts and store them in various forms for future tea making.
To make an herbal concentrate, mash herb leaves, pour boiling water over them and allow them to steep for several days. Pour the concentrate through a strainer and freeze it in ice cube trays. To make tea with an herbal concentrate, place a frozen herbal concentrate cube in a cup and add boiling water. Two cubes makes a stronger cup of tea. These herbal ice cubes also can be added to iced tea and lemonade for an infusion of herbal flavor.
To dry herbs for tea making, cut stalks while they are young and hang them upside down in a cool, dry, dark place. When the herbs get dry, crumble them with your hands and store in airtight bags. To make tea from dried herbs, combine 1 tablespoon of dried herbs with a cup of boiling water. Allow to steep for 5-10 minutes. Strain and enjoy.
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Infused Vodka
  • 750ml bottle of premium vodka
  • 1-3 sprig of herb of choice
  • infusion jar with tight sealing lid
  1. Rinse the herbs and place them a clean mason jar or similar jar with a tight sealing lid.
  2. Pour the vodka over the herbs and shake a few times.
  3. Seal the lid tight and store the jar in a cool, dark place for 3-5 days.
  4. Test the flavor of the infusion everyday, beginning on the second day.
  5. Once the flavor is to taste, strain the herbs from the vodka using a fine strainer or coffee filter.
  6. Wash the jar and return the flavored vodka to it.
  7. Store as you do other vodka.

  • 1/2 cups sugar
  • 3/4 ounce fresh herbs, such as basil, lemon verbena, mint, tarragon, or thyme
  • 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • Ice, for serving
  • Sparkling water or club soda, for serving

  1. Put sugar and 1 cup water into a medium saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a simmer, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat; add herbs. Cover; let cool completely.
  2. Pour syrup through a fine sieve into a small bowl; discard herbs. Stir in lemon juice. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes.
  3. Fill glasses with ice. Add 2 to 4 tablespoons syrup; top with sparkling water or club soda, and stir.

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