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Tea Garden

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*Guest Post: Today's guest post is from my lovely friend Jennifer Cooper, you all know her as the founder and writer of Classic Play. I love everything Jen does and I am so delighted to share you with this lovely post she made just for all of you. I definitely will be trying this as soon as we can, I have mint overflowing in our garden.

When I was a teenager, I became obsessed with gardening. It’s not the typical thing a 17 or 18 year old gets obsessed with, but I feel I can confess this here knowing I’m among people who are also passionate about gardens. This obsession lasted through my early 20s and I would spend large portions of my paycheck on flowers, vegetables and herbs. I read books about the medicinal properties of herbs and experimented with creating teas. I steeped hyssop for sore throats and mint when I wanted to clear my foggy head. 

As the years progressed, I abandoned my obsession. Working 40+ hours a week and chasing after small kids pretty much killed any enthusiasm I had for hobbies. Each spring I’d think about gardening again, wax nostalgic, then say, “Maybe next year.” Last year was the year. For mother’s day and my birthday, my family gifted me four 4 x 4 raised beds so I could create my own little organic garden. My obsession returned. 

While my garden has plenty of veggies, including eggplants, beans, tomatoes and kale, I must confess my favorite things to grow are still herbs. Especially herbs for tea. I absolutely love the idea of a tea garden. There’s something so romantic about the idea. I also love them as an introduction for kids to gardening. I know pizza gardens are popular, but I think tea gardens are even better. Because while some kids will still turn down veggies, even ones they grew themselves, they will rarely turn down a cup of peppermint tea. 

To get you hooked on the whole tea garden idea, here are three herbs to get you started…

Chamomile

Chamomile is incredibly easy to grow from seed. It’s also self seeding so it’ll return year after year. I pick blooms frequently and lay them out to dry on a small plate in our kitchen.  Oh and as an added bonus, it attracts beneficial bugs to your garden.

Mint 

There are practically a million different varieties of mint available and each one will give your tea a different flavor. So plant a few varieties to keep things interesting.  Just a word of caution: mint spreads. A lot. I plant my mint in containers so it doesn’t take over the garden completely.

Lemon Balm

Lemon balm not only keeps mosquitos away, it also make a lovely tea. Like mint, it’s another spreader so be mindful where you plant it. Unlike mint, which grows via spreading roots, lemon balm spreads by seed. And it is one prolific seed producer. Luckily the herb is so tasty and versatile—you can use it in teas, simple syrups, salads, to flavor fish—that you’ll be happy about the bountiful harvest. 

As you become more comfortable with making your own tea, go ahead and experiment! Lavenderand rose hips all make excellent teas. You can even create your own blends like lavender and mint. 

Now that you’ve got a good tea garden going, it’s time for tea. Harvest and dry herbs in a cool, dark spot in your home. Alternatively, you can use a dehydrator or oven on a very low temperature. You can also use the microwave, but that seems a bit of a sacrilege if you go through all the trouble of growing the herbs organically. But in a pinch it’d do. 

To brew your tea, place a few tablespoons of dried leaves or flowers in a strainer and add hot water. Herbal teas don’t require as high a temperature to steep as black teas, but they do steep longer. After five minutes of steeping, add honey and lemon to taste. Now sit back and enjoy!