It’s been raining so much lately that it hasn’t been easy getting out to forage for wild foods. To make up for the rainy weather I’ve concentrated on gathering tea herbs, some are wild but most grow in my garden.
In the garden I harvest pineapple mint, chocolate mint, spearmint, lemon balm, lavender, monarda (bergamot), anise hyssop, violet leaves, catmint, raspberry and blackberry leaves. Add to this the wild mint, ox-eye daisy petals, roses, mallow flowers and red clover that I’ve gathered wild. These are the flavours that I like best in my tea, sometimes I’ll open a few decaffeinated green tea bags to add to the mixture and up the anti-oxidant factor. I either use the mixture loose in a tea ball if I’m making a pot or stuff it into tea bags with a fold-over flap that I purchased online. These I find most handy since they come in various sizes and work best for bringing tea in my thermos.
Generally speaking herbs are at their most flavourful before they flower, although I don’t always get around to picking them in time. After I pick my herbs I let them sit on the back porch for a few hours to wilt and so that any critters that might be hiding can take the chance to leave. After that I gently soak them in water, letting dirt sink to the bottom. If they’re on long stems and it’s a dry day outside I’ll sometimes clip them to the clothesline, although drying in a dark place is best to preserve the essential oils. For small herbs I’ll strew them on newspaper sheets or put them in paper bags to dry. Removing the stems from the leaves will speed up the drying process. I have also used a dehydrator in the past but it’s not usually necessary with something as thin as herbs, I tend to use it more for drying fruit with a high moisture content.
Once everything is well and truly dried I seal them in glass jars until I’ve gathered all my herbs for the summer, at which point I’ll decide what kind of blends to make and label the jars accordingly. I sometimes add spices or dried fruit peel as well such as lemon or ginger for a tea that’s more warming. It’s a very comforting feeling knowing you have enough hot soothing tea to get you through a cold winter.
What’s your favourite tea blend?