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Tuesday, 12 May 2020

Tea Infusions From Your Garden

Herbs play an important role in cooking, medicines, and even in a spiritual sense. I often infuse two or three lemon balm leaves in hot water if I'm feeling a little overwhelmed and need to re-balance my emotions. Alice Hoffman, in her novel Practical Magic writes:

There are some things, after all, that Sally Owens knows for certain: always throw spilled salt over your left shoulder, keep rosemary by your garden gate, add pepper to your mashed potatoes. Plant roses and lavender, for luck. Fall in love whenever you can.

Rosemary for protection, cleansing and remembrance. Rose for attracting good luck and avoiding conflict. Lemon balm for cheering the heart, sage for healing. Whether you use herbs for these purposes or simply flavouring your food, don't overlook the delicious infusions to be made as an alternative to your usual tea or coffee.

Lemon Balm


Whenever I pass this in my garden, I can't help but stop and rub the leaves between my fingers and savour the scent. Don't confuse lemon balm and lemon verbena. Whilst they can both be used to make tea, they are not related to each other, with lemon balm offering a less pungent but also less sweet flavour. It's look is akin to mint and infused in hot water, it is purported to aid digestion, deter cold sores and shingles, as well as the calming effects I mentioned earlier.

Rosemary


Whilst delicious across roast potatoes, this needle-leaved plant may also help to improve concentration and memory. It grows as an evergreen perennial, difficult to kill as it copes well with little watering and can grow happily in a pot on its own. As a useful aside, grown in your garden rosemary offers natural pest control against slugs, snails, carrot fly and mosquitoes.

Nettle


If you like green tea, there's a high chance you'll be agreeable to a pot of nettle. This unbelievably underrated plant commonly regarded as a weed, is full of nutrients including iron. Taken regularly it can help strengthen nails, skin and hair, and reduce allergy symptoms. It's best to use young leaves from the top of the plant for the best flavour, sweetening with honey or lemon if you prefer. And don't worry about getting stung, cooking or drying eradicates the sting, making them safe to eat.

Thyme



Thyme grows on long thin stems like rosemary, but with leaves which are much rounder. This antibacterial herb is commonly used to ease coughs, colds and sinus problems. Combine it with antimicrobial sage at the first sight of a cold to stave off worsening symptoms. You could even add echinacea for an added boost to your immune system.

Camomile



I couldn't write a post on herbal teas and not include a classic like camomile. I've had Roman camomile growing in a pot in my garden for some time, which is a low growing perennial. German camomile is an annual, but grows larger (up to 3 feet). Sadly, my camomile has never flowered, and it is the flowers which you use to make tea. Add a teaspoon of dried flowers (or 2 teaspoons for fresh flowers) to a mug of hot water and allow to infuse for a few minutes.

Camomile tea is commonly used as a light sedative and for easing anxiety, but has also been used for centuries for cramps, hay fever, digestive complaints and rashes.

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