- Author: Lanie Keystone
With our daylight hours growing shorter and the chill in the air, a flavorful cup of herbal tea would just hit the late afternoon spot. Yes, we can easily go to our favorite market to browse the many tea selections from around the world, but they won't be nearly as satisfying. And, with many of us home more than usual with a bit more time to adventure into a new garden delight along with a desire to cleave to small, controllable comforts, I began searching for ways to create my own herbal tea garden.
For a quick background, I found that the tea garden--typically a modest plot for growing herbs and flowers for steeping--has its roots in ancient herbalist traditions. And it was this herbalist tradition that helped lay the foundation for modern botany! According to “The Gardeners Companion to Medicinal Plant,” the study of herbal teas and medicinals goes back 5000 years to the Sumerians of southern Mesopotamia. In more recent times, tea gardens had their origins in the work of 17th-century apothecaries…making that the beginning of modern medicine.
How to Grow Herbs for Tea
Easy to cultivate on a windowsill, patio or garden bed, our homegrown herbal teas yield ingredients much more potent than typical store-bought teas. While it's possible to successfully grow our own black tea, the low yield is unlikely to be worth it. An herbal tea garden, by comparison, is far more resilient and manageable. Where you position your plants is crucial. And if you're planting in pots, of course, make sure they have drainage holes of stones at the base. Fun places to grow herbs for tea are your strawberry container or a vertical garden next to your kitchen.
How to Harvest
The more you cut, the more they grow! Harvesting leafy varieties before they flower is best:
Once a plant blooms, the leaves lose freshness and become bitter.
Favorite leafy varieties are mint, lemon verbena, lemon balm, and thyme.
However, gather the floral herbs you like to dry as soon as they start to bloom.
Good examples of florals are rose, lavender, or chamomile.
You might even have many of these “tea herbs” growing in your garden right now.
In addition to those listed above, herbs that make a perfect cup of tea, (and are all compatible with our zone are): Bee Balm, Calendula, Catnip, Dandelion, Echinacea, Fennel, Hibiscus, Pineapple Sage, Rosemary, and Stevia.
How to Dry
In the spring and summer, you can snip plants from your garden and put them straight into your teapot. But as the colder nights begin, it's worth storing in supplies by drying what you collect. To dry, store your crop in a cool place with good air circulation and away from sunlight. Then, just select your favorite or make your own original blend, steep, and enjoy.
Now, how about some delicious lavender tea cakes to go with that lovely cup of tea?