If you are in the process of planning your garden for the spring or looking for something new to grow indoors, why not consider growing a tea garden. I am a tea lover who likes to experiment with different teas. My current favorite is Jasmine Green Tea. I especially enjoy a hot cup of tea on a cold winter day. A tea garden made up of herbs and flowers takes a small amount of space. They can even be grown in a window box or indoors.
It is pretty simple to prepare many of these teas. All you have to do is harvest the herbs or flowers let them dry and when you want a cup of tea, pour boiling water over the crushed herbs or flowers to brew.
If you decide to create a tea garden here are some general tips:
- Harvest your herbs and flowers early in the day, once the dew is dried. This is similar to when you harvest your edible flowers.
- Find out when your plants are at their peak so you can figure out the best time to harvest them for tea.
- Provide adequate time to dry your herbs out and store them properly.
- Try combining some of these herbs together when you make tea. If the aromas work, the flavors will also.
- To brew these teas, chop the leaves or flowers and give them ample time in hot water to steep and flavor the brew—around 10 to 15 minutes for many herbs and flowers.
Here are eight different herbs and flowers to consider trying in your tea garden:
Bee Balm (Bergamot Lavender) - This perennial plant is part of the mint family. It is also known as Wild Bergamot or Lavender Bergamot. It grows delicate crown-shaped pale pastel purple flowers and foliage with a scent reminiscent of the bergamot citrus. One popular contemporary use is Bee Balm Flower Infused Honey. Native Americans refer to Bee Balm as “Oswego Tea”. Oswego tea made from these flowers and leaves was the favorite choice of Americans who turned to native plants to make their tea after losing access to British teas as a result of the Boston Tea Party. Bergamot is also responsible for the lemon-like citrus scent and taste that’s a classic component of the beloved tea blend known as Earl Grey, making it a great addition to a tea garden.
German Chamomile – German Chamomile is a delicate herb that has many culinary qualities. It is an annual plant that is most famously used for brewing tea. It is also used in many other products such as shampoos, hair rinses, cosmetics, and perfumes. The flowers are fragrant and look like daisies with their white petals surrounded by a yellow disk. The stems tend to flop over as the plant gets taller as they are not very strong. You can start seeds indoors and then plant them outdoors once the danger of frost has passed. The plant can be grown in a container but may become top-heavy, so grow it in a large container. Grow it in a sunny location, unless you live in a warm climate then grow it in partially sunny locations. Flower heads are ready to harvest when the petals are flat or falling back from the center. Snip them off when the flowers are fully open. Air-dry the blooms on a plate. Once the chamomile is dry, store whole flower buds in a glass jar away from direct sunlight. To make tea, use about a teaspoon of dried chamomile flowers per cup. Place the chamomile blossoms in a tea infuser, pour boiling water over the chamomile flowers, and then steep for 5 minutes.
Lavender - Lavender has an intoxicating floral aroma that can be smelled throughout a room when you make tea. The scent is thought to relax and relieve insomnia, so it's a great tea for the evening. Lavender is native to Europe but you can now see it grown nearly everywhere around the world. The dried flower buds are needed to make tea. You'll need a teaspoon or more per cup. Let it steep for five minutes or more to release its perfume. The plant loves sunlight, so full sun is necessary. When preparing the soil, you need to ensure that it drains well. This is one plant that you do not want to overwater. Lavender is very drought tolerant and easy to take care of once established. To keep the blooms going the plant needs to be deadheaded.
Lemon Balm – Lemon Balm is a wonderful herb known for its lemony-citrus aroma and flavor. This culinary herb’s fresh leaves make a relaxing cold or hot tea or garnish for salads and main dishes. The plant is also a medicinal herb that has mild sedative properties. Lemon Balm is very easy to grow from seed. When grown outdoors plant it in the spring or early fall. Once the plant is established it produces abundantly. Plant in a location with well-draining soil as it will need to be watered regularly. For optimal growth Lemon Balm needs partial sun to full sun, 4 to 6 hours a day to have it flourish. It is also an excellent plant for container gardening.
Red Clover – This perennial variety of clover (Trifolium pretense) is the most widely adaptable. It is native to Europe, Western Asia, and North Africa, but naturalized across the United States. The flower blossoms make excellent tea. The plant takes some time and water to establish. It is best to start in seedling cells and transplant during warmer seasons. Red clover can be grown in poor soil, but for optimum growth, the soil should be moderately fertile. This plant needs to be in a partially shaded spot. Red clover can be infused in hot water to make a delicious herbal tea. To make, pour hot water over 1-3 teaspoons of dried red clover. Let it steep for 10-15 minutes. This tea has a natural sweetness but you might want to add honey. You can also mix it with mint to make another great tea. The flower is also edible and can be used in salads.
Resina Calendula - This particular variety of Calendula is bred for the high resin content of the blossoms, which makes it ideal for teas and topical salves. The bright yellow, daisy-like flowers are eye-catching. The petals have been used for medicinal purposes for hundreds of years and they are also edible. They can be mixed into baked goods, egg dishes, salads, and sandwiches. When you brush against the flowers in the garden or crush the petals in your hand you will experience a lovely scent. Sipping Calendula tea may help heal gastric ulcers and sore throat. For tea, pick the flowers when they are at their peak. Spread the flowers out on a paper towel in a dry indoor place that does not get direct sunlight. When the flowers are dry, the petals should be crispy, remove the petals and store them. To make tea add two teaspoons of dried petals to one cup of water, bring it to a boil, and then let the tea steep for 10 minutes.
Roselle Hibiscus Flower - This plant is a relative of the fast-growing Rose of Sharon and can make a bold addition to your garden. The flowers are exotic and beautiful. They grow 2 to 3 feet high and wide. When the flower petals fade, pick the chubby little fruits and peel off the bright red calyxes, dry them, and then you can make Red Zinger tea. Harvest the calyces when they are still tender (about 10 days after the flowers appear). This flower can also be used to make a great iced tea. The plant is high in vitamin C and has a sweet, non-bitter, cranberry-like aroma and flavor. The plant has spinach-like leaves which make a savory addition to salads and stir-fries.
Spearmint - Spearmint is a perennial herb that grows well in most temperate climates. It will tolerate anything from full sun to full shade but its vigor and tenderness will be determined by the amount of water it receives. Once established, spearmint is very low maintenance and is a must-have for all culinary herb gardens. The most demanding element of growing spearmint is that it needs plenty of water. Fresh or dried leaves are delicious as tea. Spearmint is aggressive and will grow anywhere, so it is a great candidate for growing in containers. During revolutionary times, Spearmint was a great alternative to black tea. Tea made from the leaves can be used to help relieve headaches and stomach issues.
Let us know your favorite tea!