Two Herbs to Grow For Tea
There’s nothing like a fresh cup of tea made from the leaves of herbs you picked from your own garden. Pungent, aromatic, and convenient, fresh herb tea is a soothing treat. Here are two very different but popular herbs to grow in your outdoor or indoor garden.
Used for thousands of years, chamomile is for many ailments including gas, diarrhea, stomach upset, sleeplessness, and anxiety. The chamomile plant has flowering tops, and these are what are used for making tea and other herbal remedies that include chamomile.
For tea: When chamomile tops are stewed and then drained, the liquid is a deep yellow color and can be lightly sweetened if preferred. Chamomile also has some calming properties to it so it can be beneficial to sip on during the day if you are feeling anxious, or if the muscles in your body are tense from anxiety and stress.
For tea: Some people love to sip a hot cup of chamomile tea with no ailments at all, just because they enjoy it. Pregnant and nursing mothers are advised to stay away from all herbs but chamomile is the exception to this rule. It is completely safe for anyone to drink at any time.
Chamomile produces an oil that when isolated turns a unique bluish color and this has distinct anti-inflammatory properties. It has been known to work very well on skin infections, eczema, and inflamed skin. This would be chamomile in its topical form rather than the flowers or the tea from the flowers.
Chamomile was around for a long time before many over the counter and prescription medications were so readily available. People had to rely on herbal remedies that were passed down from generations.
Chamomile is also used in combination with other herbs for a lot of other purposes. If one felt nauseous, a combination of chamomile, shredded licorice root, fennel seeds, and peppermint, would cure that pretty quickly. Because chamomile is part of the ragweed family you should not ingest it if you have an allergy to ragweed.
It’s also used as an excellent hair conditioner and to sooth scalps when it is mixed with a bit of lemon and sunshine. It has been known to give subtle natural highlights to hair.
Peppermint (M. x piperita) and spearmint (M. spicata) are the best-known species in North American. Mint can be grown in pots and containers indoors and out. In the garden, mint should be grown with a barrier around the roots, as it can be extremely invasive. Most mints do not come true from seed so it is best to purchase plants from a nursery or garden center. Fresh mints are a source of Vitamin C and pro-vitamin A.
For tea: Mint tea is useful for soothing upset stomachs. To brew a cup, use 1 teaspoon dried leaves or 3 teaspoons crushed fresh leaves in 1 cup of boiling water. Steep to taste. Mint can be dried or freeze leaves in butter, oil, or ice cubes.
Peppermint and spearmint are perennials growing 12 to 36 inches tall, although some mints are ground hugging. Produced at the end of square stems, terminal spikes of dainty lilac, purple, pink, or white flowers usually bloom in mid-to-late summer.
Cultivation requirements for growing mint: grows best in moist, deep, loosely textured sandy soil; full sun but will do well in partial shade; keep well watered; pinch off flowers to promote bushy growth; and if growing indoors, fertilize with an organic fertilizer at half-strength every 3 or 4 weeks. Where winters are harsh, mulch with straw or leaves to protect your plants.
Mints have creeping roots that require sufficient room to develop. When establishing indoor plants, pot up in good houseplant soil and sufficiently large containers to accommodate their root system. To bring indoors for the winter, check for insects, and spray with soap and water if necessary. To harvest and prevent indoor plants from getting scraggly, keep the stems cut back to 5 inches. This will also keep the plants from blooming and ensure tastier leaves.
At least 5 hours of strong sunlight daily is needed when growing mints indoors. Grow them on a southern or eastern exposure. If you are growing them on a windowsill, rotate regularly to ensure each side receives equal amounts of light. Better yet, grow them under fluorescent lights hung 6 inches above the plants and leave on for 14 hours a day.
In the garden, mint is a good companion to cabbage and tomatoes. Mint deters cabbageworms and spearmint may help keep aphids off nearby plants. Mints attract bees so planting them near fruit trees will improve pollination and increase yields.
Add fresh mint leaves to water in the birdbath to keep the water attractive for birds. In the kitchen, use mint with butter, salads, cheese, fruits, fruit salads, jellies, soups, sauces, stews, sweet dishes, teas, bean, and lentil dishes. Add fresh sprigs to cooking water of peas, carrots, fresh beets, new potatoes, and in vinegar.
Mint flowers can be used in salads as well as garnishes for desserts.
Try your hand at growing these two herbs in your garden for a bounty of fresh and pungent tea ingredients.
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