PHOTO: iStock/Thinkstock
Kelly Wood
July 31, 2014

 

·        Unless specified that they should be dried, herbs can be brewed either fresh or dried. Put material in a tea infuser, tea strainer or fillable tea bags, and let steep for 4 minutes for light-tasting tea or 15 minutes to 4 hours for a more medicinal tea.

Camellia (Camellia sinensis)

Parts Used: leaves, dried properly

This is grown in India and China for the well-known English Breakfast and Darjeeling varieties of caffeinated tea that many of us are familiar with. Green tea and black tea also come from this plant but are dried to different degrees.C. sisensisis an easy shrub to grow and keep small, and it contains many powerful antioxidants. It is the only ingredient listed here that is a caffeinated addition to tea.

Mint (Mentha spp.)

Parts Used: leaves

Any species of mint, including spearmint and peppermint, is great for making tea. The taste and aroma of mint leaves can invigorate and energize, and they are beneficial for digestion.

Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis)

Parts Used: leaves

Melissa looks and behaves like a mint and is a good companion for mint tea blends, but it has a strong, almost sweet, lemony flavor. It is a digestive herb, and it also serves to strengthen the immune system.

German Chamomile (Maricaria recutita)

Parts Used: flowers

Chamomile is a traditional bedtime tea because its herbal qualities invoke feelings of calm and relaxation. It has a sort of dusty, tangy flavor that appeals to many, and it is often used as a digestive aid.

Catnip (Nepeta cataria)

Parts Used: leaves, flowers

Although the catnip plant is in the mint family and is used to make cats playful and energetic, it has the opposite effect on humans, serving as a powerful soother in tea. A blend of tea with catnip helped me through a particularly stressful home-remodeling project.

Echinacea (Echinacea purpurea)

Parts Used: flowers, leaves

Echinacea is an easy-to-grow perennial plant that has gained fame for its curative properties; I swear by Echinacea tea during cold and flu season. Like chamomile, it acts as a soothing ingredient and can have a similar dustiness in flavor, but it has a slightly more floral overtone.

Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare)

Parts Used: seeds

In India, people eat fennel seeds after meals as a digestive aid. When added to tea blends, the seeds impart gentle licorice overtones that I find subtly invigorating.

Lemon Verbena (Aloysia triphylla)

Parts Used: leaves

This herb is tricky to grow in colder climates, but if you can grow it, you’ll never regret it. Lemon verbena is wonderful cook with, and it imparts a more pungent, direct lemon flavor in teas than lemon balm does. It is a calming herb that aids digestion and sleep.

Lemon Peel

Parts Used: peel (also called zest)

A squeeze of lemon juice in brewed tea is hardly a novel idea, but you can also use lemon peel, fresh or dried, in your tea blend. Go light on the peel, as the essential oils in it can overpower the mix easily. Orange peel can be used the same way.

Wild Rose (Rosa spp.)

Parts Used: leaves, rosehips (seedpods)

Living in the City of Roses (Portland, Oregon), I learned early on that the lovely hybrid tea roses that are used in bouquets and displays are not for candying, steeping, or adding to concoctions; wild roses are the roses that we can ingest. Rose petals in tea give a lovely, gentle floral scent and can serve as a digestive aid. Rosehips are a powerful source of vitamin C and useful with Echinacea in tea for a cold or flu.

Rosemary (Rosimarinus officinalis)

Parts Used: (needle-like) leaves

Generally more of a savory herb, rosemary can be judiciously added to a tea blend to impart its strong, invigorating scent. Rosemary acts as an herbal antidepressant, digestive aid, and mild stimulant.

Pineapple Sage (Salvia elegans) and Clary Sage (Salvia sclarea)

Parts Used: flowers, leaves

While the extensive sage family is used for both culinary and medicinal purposes, these two varieties have sweeter essences and are better additives to tea than some of their cousins.

Scented Geraniums (Pelargonium spp.)

Parts Used: flowers, leaves

These are not your grandmother’s bright-red Martha Washington geraniums. Scented geraniums are a different family, and they have a wide variety of scents and flavors as the result of extensive hybridization. They, like roses, can impart a sweet, gentle floral overtone to your tea.

Stevia (Stevia rebaudiana)

Parts Used: leaves, flowers

Stevia is a natural sweetener, having many times the sweetness of refined sugar; it also aids in digestion and has many other uses. It is challenign to grow in colder climates but can be a houseplant.

Common Thyme (Thymus vulgaris) or Lemon/Lime Thyme (Thymus citriodorus)

Parts Used: leaves and flowers

Lemon or lime thyme is a better addition to tea than the garden-variety culinary thyme, but any type of this herb will contribute a pungent flavor to the tea. Thyme is a familiar and potent healing herb that is used to help ease the symptoms of colds and coughs through ingestion.

Nettle (Urtica dioica)

Parts Used: leaves

Use caution when harvesting fresh nettles because small hairs on the plants produce a stinging reaction. They do not sting when they are dried, and they are strong herbs for respiratory and circulatory health, possessing anti-inflammatory qualities. They are rich in vitamins and minerals—and also make a great pesto!

This article was excerpted with permission from the book Urban Farm Projects: Making the Most of Your Money, Space, and Stuff, copyright 2014, I-5 Publishing, LLC. For more budget-friendly and environmentally conscience projects and recipes, pick up a copy today!


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